Riding the Bus with My Sister

Riding the Bus with My Sister

by

Rachel Simon

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Olivia Character Analysis

Olivia is Beth’s case manager and the leader of her annual care meetings. She works for the government and checks in once a month to ask if Beth is satisfied with the services that she is receiving. Olivia also helps educate Rachel about developmental disabilities and the principle of self-determination.

Olivia Quotes in Riding the Bus with My Sister

The Riding the Bus with My Sister quotes below are all either spoken by Olivia or refer to Olivia. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Disability, Access, and Self-Determination Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Grand Central Publishing edition of Riding the Bus with My Sister published in 2013.
16. June: Disabilities Quotes

I hang up in a swirl of relief and shame. I have lived with mental retardation for thirty-nine years, and I have never asked anyone what it really is. In the interest of raising four equal children, our parents almost never uttered the words except in private and never added books about mental retardation to our shelves. In fact, I’d read about this disability only in works of fiction […] and none of them answered the questions that I hadn’t thought to ask. But why should it have occurred to me to do so? Mental retardation had just always been my sister, and my sister had always been it.

Related Characters: Rachel Simon (speaker), Beth , Olivia
Page Number: 167
Explanation and Analysis:
18. July: The Optimist Quotes

Wouldn’t it be nice, even liberating, if I could begin to see beyond my cynicism and resistance and controlling impulses? […] I think about how so many of these drivers, at crucial turning points, learned to view and inhabit their own lives in fresh ways, [and] slowly it comes to me.

Beth is living by her own choices, unfettered by the whims of an institution or group home placement decision; she travels according to the starred dots on her map; she eats what she likes when she’s hungry; she boldly dresses in a fireworks display of ensembles that declare, Look at me, I count in this world. She is, in many ways, the embodiment of self-determination.

A tension that I hadn’t even realized I’d been feeling—a tension that has possessed my body throughout this day—for weeks, no, for months—begins to ease.

Related Characters: Rachel Simon (speaker), Bailey, Olivia, Beth
Page Number: 194
Explanation and Analysis:
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Riding the Bus with My Sister PDF

Olivia Character Timeline in Riding the Bus with My Sister

The timeline below shows where the character Olivia appears in Riding the Bus with My Sister. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
1. January: The Journey
Disability, Access, and Self-Determination Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
Community vs. Individualism Theme Icon
Growth, Change, and Morality Theme Icon
...hide her quirks, while Beth has embraced them. At the meeting, Beth’s aides—Vera, Amber, and Olivia—talk Rachel through Beth’s finances, health, and personal life. She receives $527 monthly to cover her... (full context)
3. February: Hitting the Road
Disability, Access, and Self-Determination Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
...wakes up Rachel, who is sleeping uncomfortably on her floor. Beth calls her case manager Olivia and leaves her a message about the day’s weather—25 degrees—just like she does every morning.... (full context)
7. March: Streetwise
Disability, Access, and Self-Determination Theme Icon
Community vs. Individualism Theme Icon
...that Rachel is too slow and has to speed up. Just then, they run into Olivia on the street. Beth explains that Rachel made them miss the bus, and Olivia takes... (full context)
16. June: Disabilities
Disability, Access, and Self-Determination Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
Growth, Change, and Morality Theme Icon
During one of their monthly phone calls, Rachel asks Olivia what her job has taught her about people with intellectual disabilities. Olivia explains that, during... (full context)
18. July: The Optimist
Disability, Access, and Self-Determination Theme Icon
Meanwhile, Olivia keeps reminding Rachel that Beth’s treatment plan must be organized around her own preferences. This... (full context)
26. September: Surgery
Disability, Access, and Self-Determination Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
...look blurry and scratched-up. As Beth falls asleep, Rachel feels overwhelmed with love for her. Olivia later tells Rachel that she wouldn’t have forced Beth to go through with the surgery... (full context)
Disability, Access, and Self-Determination Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
Community vs. Individualism Theme Icon
...Rick visit, and after Rachel goes home, Beth finishes her post-op treatment at Jacob’s house. Olivia tells Rachel that “this is how it’s supposed to work”—self-determination is supposed to help people... (full context)
28. October: The Hunk
Disability, Access, and Self-Determination Theme Icon
Growth, Change, and Morality Theme Icon
...Beth replies that she’s already with Jesse, and just trying to set Cliff up with Olivia. Rachel remembers that Beth is doing the same thing with her and Rick. Beth prattles... (full context)
33. December: Swans and Witches
Disability, Access, and Self-Determination Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
Growth, Change, and Morality Theme Icon
...wax her face, she agrees to a haircut, new hair color, new lipstick, and manicure. Olivia visits and compliments Beth, who doesn’t seem interested. Rachel thinks that Beth will probably reverse... (full context)
Disability, Access, and Self-Determination Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
Community vs. Individualism Theme Icon
Growth, Change, and Morality Theme Icon
While Beth tells Olivia to go out with Cliff, Olivia does her monthly check-in, asking Beth if she’s happy... (full context)
36. January: Beyond the Limits of the Sky
Disability, Access, and Self-Determination Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
Community vs. Individualism Theme Icon
...happier after undoing her makeover. Rachel offers to give Jesse some of the photos that Olivia took, but Jesse says no—pictures of Beth always remind him of when Beth first moved... (full context)
37. A Year and a Half Later: The Miracle Maker
Community vs. Individualism Theme Icon
Growth, Change, and Morality Theme Icon
...through the ups and downs in her life, like a recent surgery. So have Jesse, Olivia, Vera, and the drivers. (full context)