Jimmy Curran recently visited an elementary school to read students the children’s book he wrote, which explores topics like having a disability and self-acceptance.
At the end of the visit, one of the young students came up to Curran, who has spinal muscular atrophy and uses a wheelchair, and asked to shake his hand.
“There are even adults in this world who shy away from shaking my hand, so when that little kid asked to shake my hand, it really made me feel like I’m living my purpose,” Curran said. “He saw me as just a normal person.”
Curran, a 2011 finance alumnus, self-published his book “Will the One-Winged Eagle” in November. It focuses on a bird named Will who was born with one wing, but is still independent and able to thrive in the world.
Curran, who also works as a market research analyst at Independence Blue Cross, began writing the book in Fall 2016. The picture book is 18 pages long and was also illustrated by Kris Napper, a graphic designer from Seattle who has muscular dystrophy.
It is currently available for purchase at Curran’s website [dis]ABLE, which is also a platform where he discusses the stigma surrounding disabilities and its negative impact.
One of Curran’s favorite parts of the book is toward the end, he said, when Will accomplishes his goal of catching food on his own. He feels proud of himself and embraces his differences.
“I think that drives home the message,” Curran said. “None of us are defined by our limitations. We can all accomplish our own goals in our own ways even though we are all different.”
Curran said he doesn’t remember reading a positive book about disabilities when he was a child. He never found a story with characters who were like him.
“There should be stories about disability that are positive,” Curran said. “It doesn’t always need to be a sad story. I wanted to provide a story that people with differences can relate to and is positive.”
Since releasing the book, Curran has visited elementary schools to share Will’s story with students. In January, he visited Ridge Park Elementary School, which he attended as a child, in Conshohocken, Pennsylvania.
He said the reactions to the book have been nothing but positive and empowering.
Recently, a mother shared a photo on Facebook of her daughter with the book and the caption said it was the first time her daughter — who was born with a physical disability — read a book that represented her.
“Her caption just made me proud and happy that I could provide a story that that little girl could relate to,” Curran said. “Now people with differences like myself can share the story with others and be portrayed in a positive light.”
Eddie Doyle, a 2010 communications alumnus and co-owner of [dis]ABLE, remembers the Saturday afternoon when Curran first jotted down his ideas for the picture book on his phone.
Doyle said he likes that anyone can relate to the story.
“Even though people with disabilities may have a different obstacle to overcome, I think everyone can relate to it because everyone has felt different at one point,” Doyle said. “I think it’s important to get that message. Will is different, but different is not necessarily weird. It’s just different.”
Because Curran self-published the book, one of his main jobs is promoting it through social media. He wants to make sure as many kids with special needs and disabilities as possible can hear the story.
In March, Curran will visit several elementary schools in Delaware and Montgomery counties. During the visits, Curran tells his own personal story, reads the book and then holds a Q&A.
Curran said he hopes to write another children’s book, but would also like to write a nonfiction story about his lived experiences.
He also hopes readers can find a connection to the main character of “Will the One-Winged Eagle.”
“The bird definitely is definitely an analogy for my own life,” Curran said. “I have a limitation, but it hasn’t prevented me from advancing and learning ways to do things differently to accomplish my own goals in my life.”