You Have a Brain by Ben Carson, M.D. — A Book Review
Even if Ben Carson’s mother had foreknown her son’s future as a neurosurgeon, she could hardly have come up with a more fitting rhetorical question to challenge him throughout his childhood: “Do you have a brain?” Mrs. Carson never doubted the affirmative response to that question, and the resulting story is one that deserves to be told, as much for the re-telling of Dr. Carson’s remarkable life as for the revelation of Sonya Carson’s mothering style that anchored her two sons.
Ben Carson got off to a rough start. When his father abandoned the family, they were left in poverty and instability, which resulted in severe educational deficiencies for Ben by the time he reached fifth grade. Taking matters into her own hands, Mrs. Carson prayed for wisdom to resolve her son’s problems, and He who gives to mother’s liberally and without reproach guided her into a hands-on approach that launched Ben and his brother into academic success, but, more importantly, toward a commitment to life-long learning.
Dr. Carson writes for a teen audience, and ably demonstrates that the effective use of his brain could trump peer pressure (In his experience, P.E.E.R.S. were actually People Encouraging Errors, Rudeness, and Stupidity.); it could repel attacks of the fashion-ista; and it could put a harness on raging hormones. By contrast, however, Carson found that his battle with an out-of-control temper required help from on high — but he did have to use his brain to recognize the urgency of his need.
Parenting four boys, my husband and I have told them, “Whatever you have in your hands, God will use.” This truth has been borne out in the life of Ben Carson as he pursued multiple interests throughout his adolescence and found that each of them, whether art, music, science, or the military, contributed to his professional success and enjoyment of life.
The final chapters of You Have a Brain extract the practical principles that governed Ben Carson’s choices in life. Using a memorable acronym, he urges readers to T.H.I.N.K. B.I.G. while using their Talents, applying standards of Honesty and striving for Insight; to be Nice and to stay committed to the pursuit of Knowledge (particularly through many, many Books); then, to do the work necessary for In-depth Learning. Above all, he affirms that there is a God at work behind the scenes who designed the human brain, longs for a relationship with individuals, and stands ready to provide wisdom to the seeking heart. The Personal Talent Assessment provided in the appendix is a helpful tool for annual heart-searching and goal-setting, either independently or with the guidance of a parent or mentor.
My own thoughts while reading You Have a Brain veered between wistfulness and hope. I distinctly recall making decisions as a student that were “the easy way out.” I should have risked more. However, I plan to put this book into the hands of my teen boys and to get in touch with my “inner-Sonya.” It is absolutely urgent that my boys should be aware of the impact their magnificent brains can have on their own future success.
Disclosure: This book was provided by Zondervan through the BookLookBloggers program in exchange for my unbiased review.