Sonya Carson had a third grade education, she married at age 13, and she had two boys, Ben and Curtis. The lady was abandoned by her husband when her sons were eight and ten years old. The family lived in abject poverty, and the mother had to work two or three jobs during Ben’s childhood to support the family. The kids spent the afternoons and evenings either at home or at the local public library. They helped with the laundry and other household chores. Sometimes, the mother would drop the kids with relatives for a couple of weeks in order to deal with her debilitating depression.

Above all else, Sonya believed in her kids’ ability to succeed in life and accomplish whatever they wanted to. She demanded good grades from them, and she insisted that they read. After this snowball was started with Ben, it formed an avalanche. Ben’s brain was ignited by the knowledge that lay between the covers of books. Reading opened up his world to possibilities that he had not dreamt existed. Ben loves science, and once he showed a rock collection to a teacher, he felt smart at school. His dream was to become a doctor.

Despite his exemplary grades in high school, Ben struggled at Yale University. He was used to barely studying, then cramming at the last minute and still achieving stellar grades. That strategy did not work so well in the ivy league. It took him almost flunking a class for him to start studying by reading notes. He discovered how he learned best, and he capitalized on his strengths.

Ben learned that he had good hand-eye coordination, which was necessary for surgeons to possess. He decided that he had what it takes to become a neurosurgeon. Although some doubted his choice, due to racism or snobbery, he eventually successfully separated twins who were conjoined at the head. Both of the twins survived and recovered. He credits his mother with teaching him to shrug off the insecurities and bigotry of others because it is their problem. Hard work and using his brain got him through Yale, medical school and propelled him to the great height of Secretary of Housing and Urban Development under the Trump administration.

Ben Carson can do anything that he puts his mind to.

You have a brain: a teen’s guide to T.H.I.N.K. B.I.G. by Ben Carson, 2015

I have heard Dr. Carson speak, and I was fascinated to read this memoir.

Books about neuroscience