Sunday, January 19, 2014

The Reason I Jump

Title: The Reason I Jump
Author:  Naoki Higashida (translated by KA Yoshida and David Mitchell)
Publication Information:  Random House. 2007 (original). 2013 (translation). 176 pages.

Book Source:  I read this book based on reading a description in a newsletter from a local independent bookstore.

Favorite Quote:  "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.”

Naoki Higashida is a young author of several fiction and nonfiction books. He is also an advocate for autism awareness. He was also diagnosed as severely autistic at age 5. He learned how to communicate, not verbally but through the use of an alphabet grid board. Since he could not communicate verbally, he turned to writing to let people know who he is and to offer a better understanding of his life and his world.

Naoki Higashida wrote this book when he was thirteen years old. David Mitchell (author of Cloud Atlas) and his wife KA Yoshida discovered the book in its original Japanese as another resource to use in understanding their own autistic son. They were so profoundly impacted that they decided to translate the book to make it available to a much wider audience.

The book is written in question and answer format. Questions like:

"What's the reason you jump?"
"Why don't you make eye contact when you're talking?"
"Why do you ask the same questions over and over?"
"Why do you flap your fingers and hands in front of your face?"
"Why do you repeat certain actions again and again?"

And many others.

In addition, the book is punctuated by short stories written by the author to offer a different insight.

The answers are specific to the questions. Yet, several themes and patterns emerge. What you see is the picture of an intelligent, articulate, and composed young man whose message comes across as "Please keep battling alongside us. We are the ones who are suffering the most in these scenes, and badly, badly want to free ourselves from our own chains."

This book has gotten a lot of mixed reviews. Some question the authenticity of the book, saying that it is not his words alone but rather writing facilitated by those around him. Some question the insight it offers as compared to others on the same subject matter. Some question the use of "we" by the author so as to seem to speak for all autistic people when the manifestation of autism is unique to each individual. Some question the fact that it is written not to help a person with autism but rather to offer understanding to those who live and work with an autistic person. Some question the fact that the book really offers no answers.

I am not an expert in the field nor do I deal with autism on a day to day basis. Yet, the book had a profound impact on me. Even if all the critics are correct in their interpretation, this book offers me an understanding and knowledge that I did not have before and from a perspective that I have not seen before.

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