Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Book Review: The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a 13 Year Old Boy With Autism by Naoki Higashida

[This isn't the kind of book I normally review here, but as autism is becoming more common, and more prevalent in SFF novels, it seemed like a good book to read to better understand the condition.]

Translated by: K. A. Yoshida and David Mitchell

Pros: Q&A format, includes some of his fiction

Cons: will possibly make you cry in public

This is a non-fiction book written by a 13 year old Japanese autistic boy, in which he answers questions he's been asked numerous times about why he does the things he does.  It's an amazing look inside autism.

This is a book that may well make you cry, so beware of reading it in public.  In David Mitchell's introduction, when talking about some of Higashida's included fiction and the accusation that autistic people have no empathy, he writes:

Like all storytelling mammals, Naoki is anticipating his audience's emotions and manipulating them.  That is empathy.  The conclusion is that both emotional poverty and an aversion to company are not symptoms of autism but consequences of autism, its harsh lockdown on self-expression and society's near-pristine ignorance about what's happening inside autistic heads.

Similarly in his answer to the question "Would you like to be 'normal'?" Higashida says that when he was younger he wanted to be normal but now,

I've learned that every human being, with or without disabilities, needs to strive to do their best, and by striving for happiness you will arrive at happiness.  For us, you see, having autism is normal - so we can't know for sure what your "normal" is even like.  But so long as we can learn to love ourselves, I'm not sure how much it matters whether we're normal or autistic.
While it's a short read, it's both inspiring and educational.  Understanding is the first step towards becoming better people with regards to how we interact with those who are autistic in our midst.

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