Twinned is a completed memoir of just over 80,000 words. One twin, non-disabled, tells the story of the other, who lived with cerebral palsy since birth. Jenny’s is a compelling story and I tell it without pulling any punches. See how external media have picked up the story.
Twinned is divided into two parts – ‘The Disabled Twin’ and ‘The Lone Twin’.
Part I describes Jenny’s childhood in 1970s/80s working-class Yorkshire. From the beginning, the stuff of ordinary life – the thrill and anxiety around pregnancy, childbirth and early bonding – is mixed with the extra-ordinary: the realisation that twins are on the way only 12 hours before our births; the ten-week premature birth at a time when such babies were routinely left to die (and the coincidence that the paediatrician looking after us was a pioneer in this field whose work changed all this); my parents’ worries and puzzlement about what is wrong as they compared our development; the frustrations and constraints offset against personal achievements. I draw on personal papers – family letters, diaries, ‘special school’ reports, as well as newspaper cuttings and memories to show what it was like to live as a disabled person in that particular time and place. I also give an account of my own growing realisation that I am different from my disabled twin. By the end of Part I, the reader will have a good sense of Jenny’s background and personality, and feel an affinity with her. They’ll share a sense of trepidation and hope in her struggles to achieve independent living.
Part II starts with the immediate aftermath of Jenny’s death in a freak accident. The reader is invited into a state of shock, followed by a description of what had happened. My account conveys the struggle in piecing together the events – for example attending coroner’s court, where Jenny’s disability featured strongly, giving me the nagging sense that our handling of her disability was on trial. I describe my early experiences in trying to come to terms with the loss – for example attending the Lone Twin Network’s meetings, which were both painful and slightly comical. I bring across how coming to terms with this traumatic loss made me re-evaluate not only Jenny’s death but also her entire life.
Twinned is a highly personal work, bringing together my enjoyment of writing social history with the telling of the story of one specific life. A characteristic of my writing is that I combine a number of ordinary, coincidental events, which together capture the sense of something unusual; the detail giving authenticity to the portrayal of the era. In writing the book, I didn’t shy away from awkwardness and pain. Neither did I hide behind platitudes. Raw nerves are touched, but this is balanced by healthy doses of humour. While this is a deeply personal memoir, I made sure that Twinned does not resemble a therapy diary. Instead it weaves together a small piece of social history with a particular life story to which I’m intimately connected.