The North Side of Down
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The North Side of Down: The True Story of Two Sisters, by Nancy Bailey and Amanda Bailey
“How do I want to die? Oh, I don’t know. How about a pillow over my face? It will probably be a family member.”
This quote exemplifies the biting candor and wit of Amanda Bailey, co-author of The North Side of Down, A True Story of Two Sisters. Born with Down syndrome, Amanda is the youngest sibling in this poignant, funny, painfully honest story of a hopelessly fragmented family. With their father on his deathbed, seven siblings feud over property and possessions – and custody of Amanda. Granted a monthly Social Security check for her disability, Amanda is pulled into a bitter guardianship dispute culminating in a courtroom scene. Her favorite sister, co-author Nancy Bailey, is immersed in bankruptcy and foreclosure. Just when Nancy needs to support Amanda the most, she is at her most broken. In unexpected ways, it is Amanda who lifts Nancy up as no one else can.
Do not mistake this book for “just another book about Down syndrome” or life with a disability. The North Side of Down stands apart from others in its genre. A deftly written family saga set in Michigan’s remote, economically depressed Upper Peninsula, the book portrays how love can triumph as the ultimate antidote to grief, and how the human heart can transcend the crippling quarrels of a desperately dysfunctional family. In the midst of chaos, sustained by each other and a steel thread of dark humor, it is the misfits who manage to shine.
Illiterate until she was 21 years old, Amanda is now in her forties and a prolific writer. She has written the introduction for each chapter in this book. The main narrative is skillfully rendered in Nancy Bailey’s understated, compelling style that keeps the reader fully engaged. The Bailey sisters hope to inspire others with their message: that people with disabilities should be heard; that courage comes in many forms; and that love knows no limitations. Along the way readers of this remarkable book laugh and cry, and sometimes growl, at humanity’s shortcomings.