Paul Ethan Austin

"In this beautiful, unflinching memoir, Paul Austin uses science, history, and a father's love and fear to trace his emotional journey with his daughter Sarah. Eventually, she becomes less his daughter with Down Syndrome and simply his daughter. And every step of the way you will root for Austin, for Sarah, for everyone who has had to learn how to accept the path they are on. I simply love this book!”—Ann Hood, author of The Obituary Writer

“Beautiful Eyes is honest, sensitive, exquisitely observed. A memoir not just for the immediate family of a child with Down Syndrome, but for the whole human family.”—Peggy Payne, author of Sister India

“Austin gives us a portrait of a spectacular young woman, his daughter Sarah, who is wise, bright, determined, often hilarious, occasionally sad, and always compelling. As we follow Sarah’s story, the label “Down Syndrome” begins to disappear, replaced instead by an image of a complicated and unforgettable human being.”—Dana Sachs, author of The Life We Were Given

Beautiful Eyes:
A Father Transformed

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People Picks:

"Raising a child with Down syndrome, the author had plenty of fears and preconceptions. But from babyhood to adult-hood, Sarah challenged him to accept her not as a dire diagnosis but as a beloved, inspiring daughter. This isn't a book only for those dealing with disability; it's a ferocious, illuminating look at the stunning surprise of human connection."

People Magazine, Nov. 3, 2014

"An emergency room doctor and essayist tells the moving story of how he came to terms with being the father of a child with Down syndrome. When doctors first told Austin (Something for the Pain: One Doctor's Account of Life and Death in the ER, 2008) and his wife, Sally, that their newborn daughter Sarah had trisomy 21, the couple went into shock. Neither could fully acknowledge that they had created a life that was anything less than perfect. Bonding with the child proved difficult at first, not because Sarah was a difficult baby but because the couple could not see themselves—or traits from their families—in her. They only saw the "simian crease" on Sarah's palms that marked her as "abnormal." The author and his wife also found they had to deal with the prejudices of others—e.g., the senior resident at the hospital where Austin trained who suggested that a Down syndrome child would be functional enough to "make a good pet." Seeking to understand Sarah's otherness, Austin explored the history of Down syndrome, the philosophical writings of Locke and Montaigne, and the art of the 15th-century Flemish masters. He discovered that the negative feelings he and others had toward his daughter were as much historical as they were a product of a society that scorned difference. As Sarah grew up, so did Austin. He began to see his child as a self-aware being who struggled with her limitations rather than a set of chromosomes gone awry. Sarah made the most of her abilities in events like the Special Olympics and gracefully accepted her fate to live as a member of a group home. This tender, bright and flawed child showed how being different enhanced her humanity rather than detracted from it. A poignant and candid father's memoir."

Kirkus Reviews


A book about fathering child with Down syndrome Available October 2014
A book about the way my job almost wrecked my life.