Riding the Bus with My Sister

Riding the Bus with My Sister

by

Rachel Simon

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Themes and Colors
Disability, Access, and Self-Determination Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
Community vs. Individualism Theme Icon
Growth, Change, and Morality Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Riding the Bus with My Sister, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Disability, Access, and Self-Determination

Riding the Bus with My Sister is Rachel Simon’s memoir about her relationship with her sister Beth, who lives with a developmental disability and devotes her time to riding the buses around her Pennsylvania city. For many years, Rachel and her family viewed Beth’s bus-riding as an eccentric, pointless, and slightly embarrassing hobby—they hoped that she would stop and get an ordinary job. But when Rachel decides to spend a year repeatedly visiting…

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Love and Family

Riding the Bus with My Sister centers on Rachel and Beth Simon’s complex, difficult, but ultimately loving relationship. Rachel first visits Beth in the hopes of repairing their broken relationship, which is just one of the many frayed bonds in their family. Rachel and Beth share a complicated and traumatic past, defined most of all by their mother suddenly abandoning them in their early teenage years. This past has also taken a toll on…

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Community vs. Individualism

At the beginning of her journey, Rachel Simon doesn’t just lack close personal relationships—she also lacks any sense of a broader community. But this is by design: while she views her writing and teaching work as an important public service, she also believes that achieving the “Big Life” will require her to avoid tying herself down to any particular place or group of people. And she emphasizes that her experience isn’t unique—rather, it’s part of…

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Growth, Change, and Morality

Throughout Riding the Bus with My Sister, one of Rachel Simon’s most pervasive frustrations with her sister Beth is that, while Beth fully understands how her behaviors harm herself and others and is fully capable of changing these behaviors, she simply chooses not to. Rachel knows that Beth’s developmental disability makes it difficult for her to change, but she also sees that Beth’s rigidity is just a more extreme version of the universal…

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