Cleft Heart: Chasing Normal

Bullying kills kids and ruins lives

It’s not just about “kids being kids”

Woman holding infant Karl surrounded by portraits at later ages.

Laura with son, Karl. Five post-surgical portraits.

I was inspired to write my memoir Cleft Heart by my own journey from a child relentlessly bullied for my disability, to star debater at Yale. I faced tragedy along the way, but I also sailed around the world and found love. It’s not always easy, but young people need to know that they can and will overcome bullying. Even if they have a speech impediment, even if they suffer from birth defects or a serious childhood disease, they can have healthy, productive lives free from abuse.

Perfect book for kids, young adults, and their parents

Share Cleft Heart with friends and family who care about bullying… especially if you have kids who have struggled with this problem. The book will inspire them to swing for the fences and not settle for a life with limits and frustrated aspirations.

Cleft Heart: Chasing Normal

Slightly posturized painting Woman in '20s by Karl Schonborn

Laura, unsung heroine in Cleft Heart.

Cleft Heart, follows a kid with birth defects who achieves his wildest dreams as a young man…only to be confronted by his scariest nightmares as a young adult.

Bullied for his unintelligible speech, Schonborn becomes a star debater in school and college. He—and the triumphant debate team he captains in his senior year—win the coveted Adams Cup at Yale.

However,  he soon has to race half way around the world to fight for his girl. There are seagoing dangers, deeply felt disappointments, and days of loneliness to endure. But

From New York City to Berkeley, Schonborn has put himself on the line before to follow his dreams. For instance, he’s emotionally tested for months when faculty, family, and friends question his decision to change career paths. Never the less, he gives up four years of premed work and a hard-won seat and friends at Columbia Med School to be true to his dream of scientifically studying aggression and violence.

Tests like these—full of highs and lows of feeling— prepare him for the greatest challenge of his life: cracking the mystery of the tragic violence that befalls his family. He unravels the mystery, in part, to give himself the normal life he’s wanted ever since he was a kid.

An inspirational, coming-of-age story, made more so because every word is true.

There are many medical misery memoirs out there. Stories about cancer and mental illness abound, and they often depress me if they exclusively focus on pain and malpractice issues to the exclusion of hope and joy.

Cleft Heart is not a misery memoir by any stretch. It is primarily a love story. A story about:

  • the love of a mother for her son,
  • the love of that son for one of the few girls who’s ever truly accepted him, and
  • the love of life that propels a young man through searing challenges

Help the anti-bullying movement, energized by the movie Bully, and give a copy of Cleft Heart to your kids.

If you’re looking for a book that deals with the bullying that happens through K through 12 grades, then Cleft Heart: Chasing Normal is your book. It looks at bullying in a serious way, esp bullying that’s focused on the disabled.

Order Cleft Heart via Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

Praise for Cleft Heart

“A poignant, heartfelt tale of endurance and hope. Schonborn’s story is an inspiration to all who endure physical or mental health challenges and those who care about them.”                                                                   

John Kerry
Former United States Secretary of State

Schonborn’s courage and candor are impressive as he tells of trying to become ‘normal’ despite endless visits to the doctors and speech therapists who give him a fighting chance at proving naysayers wrong.”  

                                              Rhoda Agin, PhD
Internationally known Speech Therapist & Author

“Gives hope to all who contend with deformities, disabilities or depression. Additionally,  Cleft Heart reads like a mystery book and has a love story to boot.”                                           

             Ronald Iverson, MD
Adjunct Prof Plastic Surgery, Stanford U., Former President ASPS

“Courage, humor, and a silver tongue help Karl Schonborn overcome a series of daunting birth defects and a tragic personal loss that might have defeated many others. He shows us how in his inspiring memoir. His story left this reader cheering.”

Chris Bernard
author, 
A Spy in the Ruins

“Schonborn details how he has overcome the cards dealt him. His narrative is inspiring and most helpful, particularly as he describes his changes throughout the decades.”

                                       Luis Vasconez, MD
Chief of  Plastic Surgery, U.of Alabama Med School

“I was really moved and excited to see the tale unfold. It’s a great story, an example to help others get through tragedies or misfortunes.”

                                      Steve Clark
World’s fastest swimmer early ‘60s, Olympic Gold Medalist

My screenplay, Stop, Look, and Listen Is Another Tale About Overcoming a Speech Impediment

Acquire the Rights to Stage this Inspirational Story

Cleft Heart isn’t my only work about overcoming bullying and ableism. During my time as a script writer and TV producer, I wrote Stop, Look, and Listen. This work is about a young man with a disfigured face and an intermittent speech impediment who dreams of being a TV reporter and anchor. He battles incredible odds and finally gets what he wants by means of hard work, charm, and guts. All along the way, readers feel the roller-coaster of emotion (from despair to elation) that the author experiences.

New York City agent Bertha Klausner represented the screenplay before she died. Afterwards,  scriptbroker Bob Breitel and consultant Henry Ehrlich came within a hair of having Sherry Lansing, President of Paramount Pictures, accept it for production.

Contact me to find out the current availability (e.g., for high school productions) of Stop, Look, and Listen in book, e-book, or audio-book form.