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Illustrating the Possibilities

Posted Monday, March 7, 2022 —


Geneva Middle School teacher Brenda Calabria hopes that her recently published book, “Why do we do that?!” is educational not only for its subject matter but also for its illustrator.


“Why do we do that?! The Order of Catholic Mass in Ordinary Time” was written a few years ago, but the illustrations, provided by Mrs. Calabria’s stepson, were the finishing touch required for publication.


Although a talented artist, Nathan Calabria is not a professional illustrator. “He’s a great cartoonist,” said Mrs. Calabria. “It’s just something he developed over time and he just loves to draw. He has his own YouTube channel under Nathan Calabria — he just does great illustration work.”


Mr. Calabria, a 29-year-old graduate of Geneva High, is autistic. “He is living on his own now,” said Mrs. Calabria. “He attended the D.R.I.V.E. program at Keuka College after high school, which helped him with life and living on his own.”


Mr. Calabria plans to continue illustrating — he has a cast of characters he has created, according to Mrs. Calabria, and is planning his next book around them.


“Why do we do that?!” dives into many of the traditions of Catholicism to explain the reasoning behind even the most basic ones, such as why kneeling is required during certain portions of mass, but sitting or standing is expected during others.


Mrs. Calabria’s target audience is young Catholics and those newly converted, and the book is already proving popular at St. Stephen’s Church in Geneva. “Our church just gave the book as a gift to all the kids who did their First Communion and Confirmation class,” she said.


Whether the book makes any bestseller lists, though, is less important to Mrs. Calabria than the simple impact of its publication and the message Mr. Calabria’s success as an illustrator sends. “He is doing really well and I really wanted to highlight that you can have a disability and still do well — you can publish a book. … He’s just amazing.”