In their recently released fictional book “Weight A Minute - Lessons a Family Learns Thru the Gift of Autism,” R.V. Kuser and his wife Marlene Kuser introduce the Weight family of Winston-Salem.
The family of five consists of the parents and three children – ages 8 to 12. The main character in the book is 10-year-old Randy, the middle child who lives with autism spectrum disorder. It's a young adult book for readers of all ages, the Kusers say.
Randy navigates a world that R.V. understands so well because he experiences autism.
“I took the basic experience of my life,” R.V. said of the new book. “In my childhood, I was nonverbal. ... Because of the fact that the state wanted to have me institutionalized, I had to learn coping skills through occupational therapy.”
Randy’s siblings in the book represent other dimensions of R.V.
The book is basically about how Randy learns to support his family after all the support they have given him.
“He helps them with certain observations and he becomes the hero of the whole story,” R.V. said.
Originally from New Jersey, the Kusers moved to Winston-Salem 11 years ago.
R.V. has worked as a consultant for The Special Children’s School in Winston-Salem and various schools in Guilford County. While in New Jersey, he was an assistant teacher from preschool to 12th grade at the Freehold Borough School System for 10 years and has worked with the East Brunswick Adult Education Program for Persons with a Mental Disability.
Today, he is primarily a disability advocate. He and Marlene are members of several local advocacy groups for the disabled.
R.V.’s first book “Challenged But Not Defeated – Strategies for Coping with Autism and Schizophrenia” was a solo effort. The nonfiction book details the strategies he has developed through his lifelong quest to overcome personal difficulties with communication, behavior and cognitive perception.
Marlene is a multi-media artist whose works include jewelry and hand-dyed scarves. She also teaches in the metals department at Sawtooth School for Visual Art.
One of her biggest contributions to the book is Stacy, the family dog.
“Stacy talks, kind of,” Marlene said laughing. “I actually think Stacy is me.”
Q: How would you describe your art?
Answer: R.V. – Literary human-interest stories. I enjoy telling stories of all kinds. I have also written short stories. Mostly, I like writing stories that help broaden a person's perspective of themselves.
Marlene – For jewelry, a student in my jewelry class asked me, “How do you design your pieces”? My answer – “The beads speak to me.” It depends on how many beads of one kind, shape, size, etc. there are and where they look the best.
Q: How have you evolved as an artist?
Answer: R.V. – Because I became involved in advocacy work it has given me a greater knowledge and appreciation of the autism and the mental health community – my community – a community of tremendous abilities.
Marlene – I never liked writing in school, but now I realize it was the subject of the report. I write about things that are of interest to me.
Q: Who has influenced your art?
Answer: R.V. – Marlene is my greatest inspiration with all my literary works. She was the guiding force that led me to write my first book. She is my continued support with all my literary works. I love her to no end.
Marlene – R.V. is my biggest fan. He always sees the positive in everything and everyone.
Q: What is your biggest challenge?
Answer: R.V. – My biggest challenge has been and always will be getting past my personal history living with autism. That means moving past my difficulties, accepting who I am - knowing that it is okay to be different.
Marlene – I am way too hard on myself. I have an image of what my final piece will look like. When it is not working out, sometimes it throws me off.
Q: What does art do for you?
Answer: R.V. – Writing gives me a sense of peace and calm. Also, structure and balance. It allows me to feel a sense of completion and satisfaction in the world that for me is a little chaotic and hard to understand at times.
Marlene – I can get lost in “my creative mind” and time seems to fly.
Q: Any advice for other artists?
Answer: R.V. – For people who enjoy writing or any art form, but are not sure how to pursue their art, think about it solely as something that makes you feel good and do it solely because you like it. Take it one step at a time and then see where it goes from there. Express what you feel – no one knows your art better than you. Enjoy!
Marlene – Ditto.