Look Me in the Eye
John Elder Robison
As a teenager, John Robison’s behavior—blurting out non-sequiturs, avoiding eye contact and repeatedly burying his brother (author Augusten Burroughs) in a hole in the backyard—earned him the label of “social deviant.” A late-in-life diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome helped him understand why his mind works the way it does and this darkly funny memoir is a heartfelt exploration of what he’s gleaned.
Love That Boy
Political journalist Ron Fournier writes, “A parent’s love is unconditional. A parent’s satisfaction comes with caveats. This is an important distinction: You love your kids no matter what, but you expect them to be something—smart or popular or successful […]” Fournier’s narrative is one of a father coming to terms with those expectations as he raises a son with Asperger’s. Tyler, a whip-smart and quirky boy, joins his father on road trips cross-crossing the country (meeting not one, but two Presidents in the process), and along the way, Fournier identifies that its his own ego that is getting in the way of a real relationship with his son. This honest and heartfelt memoir is a must-read for every parent.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
This bestselling-novel has seen great success on Broadway after it was adapted for the stage in 2014. Haddon’s fifteen-year-old main character Christopher John Francis Boone knows all of the world’s capitals and prime numbers up to 7,057 but can’t stand to be touched and hates the color yellow. His well-ordered life goes off the rails when his neighbor’s dog is murdered, but Christopher sets off to solve the mystery, using—of course—logic.
The Reason I Jump
This unique book truly shines a light on what goes on inside an autistic brain; author Naoki Higashida was thirteen when he painstakingly penned this book—a collection of answers to frequently asked questions about autism, like “Why do people with Autism talk so loudly and weirdly?” and “Why don’t you make eye contact when you speak?” Brought to English translation by David Mitchell (Cloud Atlas, The Bone Clocks) and his wife, this disarmingly honest read is illuminating and beautifully written. And for more from this extraordinary young man, check out his second book, Fall Down 7 Times Get Up 8, coming in July of 2017.
In a Different Key
ABC Correspondent John Donvan and news producer Caren Zucker share more than veteran journalism careers; they each have a connection to autism. Caren’s son Mickey was diagnosed in 1996 and John’s brother-in-law grew up with the disease in Israel in a time before it was acknowledged or widely understood. The two have teamed up again, this time as authors, to pen the history of autism, beginning with the first child ever diagnosed and spanning the years of work by pioneering doctors and lawyers, as well as social misconceptions that once called for institutionalizing autistic children. Donvan and Zucker’s extensive research creates a new understanding of autism: as difference rather than disability.
Flying at Night
Rebecca L. Brown
This emotional debut novel centers on the relationship between a determined mother named Piper, her autistic son, and her distant father, who recently suffered a detrimental heart-attack. The book documents the transformation of Piper’s relationship with her father over time, from abuse to detachment, and then dependency later in life. It also chronicles how her autistic son, Fred, tries to find his place in all of the craziness. Flying at Night gives a voice to Fred, shows just how strong a mother of an autistic child has to be, and demonstrates that love can develop in even the most unexpected places, between the most unexpected people.
Thinking in Pictures, Expanded Edition
Temple Grandin is an icon in the world of autism because she broke through boundaries to make herself, and others like her, visible for the first time. Temple was a child with autism in a world that didn’t quite know what that meant, which made her early life very difficult, to say the least. But she went on to become a prominent author and speaker on both autism and animal behavior – she is a professor of Animal Science at Colorado State University, and HBO made an Emmy Award-winning movie about her life. She was even inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2016. Although all of her books are essential reads for this month, we decided to feature Thinking in Pictures, which chronicles her experiences as both a scientist and an autistic person.
The Kiss Quotient
This heart-warming debut novel is written by Helen Hoang, a romance fan, and now author, who was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder in 2016. The Kiss Quotient is a hilarious, charming, and evocative novel about Stella Lane, a thirty-year-old woman who has Asperger’s, is obsessed with math, and struggles to understand intimacy in relationships. Stella makes the decision to get professional help in the romance department, so she hires an escort to show her the ropes. What follows is something that surpasses all of Stella’s expectations – this story serves as a reminder that love can grow and flourish in everyone, even those who don’t quite understand it.
Songs of the Gorilla Nation
Dawn Prince-Hughes, Ph.D.
In this compelling memoir, Dr. Dawn Prince-Hughes traces her personal growth from undiagnosed autism to the moment when, as a young woman, she entered the Seattle Zoo and immediately became fascinated with the gorillas. Having suffered from a lifelong inability to relate to people in a meaningful way, Dawn was surprised to find herself irresistibly drawn to these great primates. By observing them and, later, working with them, she was finally able to emerge from her solitude and connect to living beings in a way she had never previously experienced.
April is National Autism Awareness Month, which was started by the Autism Society nearly a quarter century ago to promote awareness, inclusion, and acceptance and to draw attention to the tens of thousands of people facing an autism diagnosis each year. For people who love books, reading about autism and Asperger syndrome—as told from multiple perspectives—can offer enlightening insight and understanding. These titles—both fiction and non—will teach readers more about the intricacies of this developmental disorder.
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