The 3 minutes that changed Buzz Bissinger's life

June 8, 2012

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Pulitzer Prize-winning author Buzz Bissinger is perhaps best known for writing Friday Night Lights, the book that birthed a movie, a television series and a conversation about the impact of high-school football on a community. After reporting, writing and editing for some of the country’s most distinguished publications, producing and writing for the television series NYPD Blue and authoring four successful books, Bissinger says his new memoir, Father’s Day: A Journey into the Mind & Heart of My Extraordinary Son, is the best book he’s ever done.

The accomplished author is father to twin boys, Gerry and Zach. The boys were the youngest male twins ever to survive at Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia. They born mere minutes apart but would experience life—and their father—in very different ways. The elder, Gerry, was born just under two pounds and just minutes before his brother. He recently earned his master’s in education at Penn and is now working as a full-time teacher; he’s got a girlfriend and he’s living in a house that he bought. His brother Zach, born three minutes later and three ounces lighter, never attended a conventional school; he’ll never live alone and he’ll likely never have a girlfriend. Zach was born with trace brain damage. And while he has no physical disabilities, is very verbal, very friendly and a savant in the area of calendaring—his comprehension is quite low.

“The juxtaposition of my twins, the difference in the paths of their lives because Gerry was the first out of the womb by three minutes, still brings me to tears,” Bissinger recently explained. “Three minutes does define a life. It is the most important lesson in my life.”

Father’s Day invites readers along for the ride of Bissinger’s life as he takes to the open road with son Zach, their collective anxieties, Zach’s uncanny memory and Buzz’s unresolved shame about his desire to make his son “normal.” Ultimately Bissinger reaches a familiar conclusion, that three minutes does define a life—but not in the ways he’d always imagined.

In anticipation of the upcoming paternal holiday, Bissinger joined the Afternoon Shift to share his story.

Bissinger will also be talking about his book over the weekend:

  • Printer’s Row Book Festival on Saturday, June 9, at 1:45 p.m.
  • Anderson’s Bookshop appearance on Sunday, June 10, at 2:00 p.m.