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REVIEW: The Reason I Jump by Naoki Higashida

The Reason I Jump is one of the two non-fiction books I chose to read for the DiverseAThon. It is a way for me to start learning more about different topics and people’s experience. The book that has made me want to read more non-fiction would be: “When Breath Becomes Air” by Paul Kalanithi. It was very emotional and very beautiful. Since then I’ve read other books either by physicians, like “Being Mortal” by Atul Gawande or by people suffering from mental illness which is a topic I am very interested in, like “Prozac Nation” by Elizabeth Wurtzel. Of course there are some very boring non-fiction books and although I don’t have the stats but I think it is safe to say that most, if not all, the books I’ve DNF-ed are non-fiction books. Lately I’ve had only great experience with the genre so when I came accross a book about Autism by an autistic 13 year old author, all I could think was: Interesting! I’ve never felt like I knew enough about Autism. In fact, I was ignorant. I’ve never met anyone with autism and I’ve never discussed autism or heard about it that much. Now even after reading this book, I can’t say that I now know everything but I can say that I know more than before.

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

THE REASON I JUMP ⭐⭐⭐

Published August 27th 2013 by Random House (first published 2005)

SYNOPSIS: You’ve never read a book like The Reason I Jump. Written by Naoki Higashida, a very smart, very self-aware, and very charming thirteen-year-old boy with autism, it is a one-of-a-kind memoir that demonstrates how an autistic mind thinks, feels, perceives, and responds in ways few of us can imagine. Parents and family members who never thought they could get inside the head of their autistic loved one at last have a way to break through to the curious, subtle, and complex life within.

THOUGHTS: I have mixed feelings about this book and I’m not sure if I can make it all clear through this review. I hope so. This may sound surprising because I think that I’ve talked a lot about how much I loved this book and I did, really! I just don’t like it when it’s one person speaking for everyone and there are parts from this books where it sounds like the author is trying to do so. It’s a bit like meeting people who suffer from depression and tell them “I’ve read this book and apparently, you’re all depressed the same way, for the same reasons.”. You have to take it all with a grain of salt. I’ve mainly come to this conclusion after reading this article and also other reviews. It doesn’t give you everything to know about absolutely all autistic person because, of course, each individual is different. And I also don’t exactly believe it is all written by a 13 year old boy. I can’t help but be skeptical about it and even more after reading other reviews and articles about the book.

This book, I can say, only teaches you how to act around autistic people. To avoid to say  or do things that are extremely wrong. The author does give examples of how some things said to an autistic kid could hurt his feelings without us meaning to. For example, he said that some people have a tendency to assume that autistic people can’t communicate or do in a way that a baby would and therefore they take it to be better to talk to them using a baby’s voice. According to the author, that is condescending and is generally not taken well because if you’re a teenager and you’re still being talked to like a baby, it doesn’t feel that great. Another example would be to assume that they just don’t like holding hands and that they enjoy always staying alone. When you say it out loud to them, they may come to the wrong conclusions, hurting their feelings. These are the parts that I like the most, the parts that warn you about what not to do. I like them better than the ones where the author tries to explain the reason why autistic children act in a certain way because I don’t know, I just feel like it’s possible to have the same “symptoms” with a completely different cause. If a kid likes to jump because he likes “to be swallowed up by the sky”, maybe another one doesn’t.

Aside from that, I found the format very interesting. It follows a question and answer format which makes it all more simple to understand the point of view of the author. There are questions like “Why do you spin?”, “Why do you jump?” and “Why can you never stay still?” that the author, a 13 year old autistic boy tries to give an honest answer to. There are also some short stories included. The answers are quite short and to the point even though there are some where it sounded more “poetic” than true. For example: Question 39: “Why do you like being in the water?” : We just want to go back. To the distant, distant past. To a primeval era, in fact, before human beings even existed. All people with autism feel the same about this one, I reckon. Aquatic life-forms came into being and evolved, but why did they then have to emerge onto dry land, and turn into human beings who chose to lead lives ruled by time? These are real mysteries to me…People with autism have no freedom. The reason is that we are a different kind of human, born with primeval senses. We are outside the normal flow of time, we can’t express ourselves, and our bodies are hurtling us through life. If only we could go back to that distant, watery past–then we’d all be able to live as contentedly and freely as you lot!. The answer isn’t very long but swimming to go back to a primeval era? Hum. Now of course I don’t know if this is true or not but I just find it hard to believe that it would apply to everyone. It just seems… embillished at times and I think that’s the problem with this book.

The reason why I gave this 3 stars was because at the end of my reading, I felt like I knew more about autism. Maybe it was just learning about Naoki’s case but still, it’s something and it gave me a certain level of satisfaction. I don’t know if I would’ve had the same opinion being more familiar with autism.

Either way, I think that this is a great memoir to pick up if you want to start learning about autism but of course without taking everything to be a “fact” for everyone with autism.

I would love to hear your thoughts about this book if you’ve already read it and since I want to learn a bit more about autism, if you know of any good book (fiction or non-fiction) that tackles the matter, please let me know!

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