Late Tuesday evening in the John J. McDonough Museum of Art, Bruce Mills — author of over 10 published works on autism and nineteenth century American writing — presented students and faculty with a poetry reading on his latest memoir, “An Archaeology of Yearning.”
Mills teaches English at Kalamazoo College in Michigan and advocates for education on autism. He has written non-fiction in The Georgia Review, New England Review, and “Gravity Pulls You In: Parenting Children on the Autism Spectrum.” Along with Debra Cumberland, he has also co-edited “Siblings and Autism: Stories Spanning Generations and Cultures.”
“An Archaeology of Yearning” detailed the past experiences of Mills and his son with autism in Iowa and used the metaphor of an archaeological dig to describe how his son grew up and functioned in everyday life.
After Mills read from a chapter of his memoir, he explained that the most challenging part of the writing process was finding the beginning.
“Part of the journey was finding my story. I was trying to recover something that was lost or isolated,” he said.
Mills said that the book was a challenge to write, but it was crucial to tell the story.
“It wasn’t as difficult to write the things that seem hard memory because it was so urgent for me to try to tell a story about. What was difficult was knowing how to give them final shape,” he said. “I started with this chronological movement, but that didn’t fit the emotional, spiritual, psychological journey. It was so urgent, I just had to write it.”
Mills explained that his son was the inspiration for his memoir.
“Yes, I was inspired. The experience of my son — it demanded that I begin to try to figure out what autism was. I didn’t write poetry and publish poetry, but I’ve always been writing. I was at a point where it just needed to be written,” he said.
At the end of the reading, audience members waited while Mills signed copies of his book. Students at the event were excited to be able to listen to Mills’ talk.
Brielle Campos, English studies major, said that Mills’ presentation had a good focus and that she thought he spoke adequately.
“It was intuitive and gave a nice idea of where his focus was, and to all of the people that he’s touched. He’s a great reader, and I think that he was a great person to listen to,” Campos said.