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Seriously, Read a Book!

Thoughts on books, often interpreted through the high-brow prism of cartoon (read: Archer) references. Wait! I had something for this...

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The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy with Autism

The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy with Autism - K.A. Yoshida, Naoki Higashida, David Mitchell

The Reason I Jump is the memoir of a Japanese boy, Naoki Higashida who, at the time of its writing, was thirteen. Naoki, who is autistic and writes with the aid of a visual alphabet card, offers his answers to a series of questions (including, of course, "What's the reason you jump?"). I knew nothing about this book prior to coming across it as a daily deal on Audible, where it aroused 99 cents worth of my curiosity. I certainly wasn't disappointed as I had no real expectations going in (so, I suppose, disappointment wasn't really on the menu).

 

Naoki is introspective and thoughtful. His answers offer some phenomenological insight as to what it must be like for someone with certain sensory differences to experience the world, much in the way that Jill Bolte Taylor's My Stroke of Insight depicts the internal experience of having a stroke (minus the scientific analysis Taylor brings to the table as a neuroanatomist). However, one must bear in mind that such accounts are one person's experience.  

 

Naoki Higashida

 

While I certainly don't fault Naoki for this, the tendency to answer questions by statements beginning with "we," hints at what seems to be a point of contention around this book. Naoki isn't answering (and never could answer) for all autistic individuals. In fact, I found myself wondering about how other aspects of his identity shaped his world view. For example, he often communicates an intense discomfort with the impact of his behavior on those around him. Was part of this an artifact of living in a more collectivist eastern culture? Maybe- and that's not something I would expect the narrator to be able to parse! It does, however, suggest a flaw in any hopes that this would somehow be a panacea for parents of autistic children.

 

Without any strong connection to the subject matter, this was an enjoyable, but not earth shattering listen for me. If I had gone into it hoping for it to be "a Rosetta Stone" that would "stretch [my] vision of what it is to be human," as Andrew Solomon was quoted as saying of the book, I think I might have been let down- but that's also quite a lot to ask of a single book, and certainly to ask of a 13-year-old.