This book… is … amazing. Everyone needs to read it, but especially helping professionals. It’s a powerful illumination of intersectional experiences that help to expand/challenge the prevailing white cis male autism narrative. It reinforces how you cannot tease apart being a woman, black, autistic, x y z other identity markers. They don’t exist in a vacuum and they can play off of each other in different ways, affording privilege at times and barriers in others depending on the context.
I have to say that I also related a lot to the stories/poems in this work, even though I live my life as a white woman with all of the privileges that go along with that. I don’t know if the label of autism fits for me and I don’t know if I really care that much about it for myself at this point– but I have found many glaring similarities reading these stories.
- Special interests including writing, reading, studying music/movies to the point where I could recite them/lines perfectly with the same inflection/tone etc.
- Rubbing smooth things, like my painted fingernails against my lips/cheeks
- Getting stuck on certain bodily sensations/smells
- Finding some sounds terrifying/jolting (e.g., mom using a hair dryer without warning
- Finding some physical touch so aversive as to feel visceral rage/violent (not sure if this is related to trauma or not)
- Being upset if the schedule changed and saying “yoooouuuuu said xyz would happen” to a parent when they told me that a certain thing would happen at a certain time or in a certain order and then it needed to change
- Advanced vocabulary — speaking in paragraphs at an early age, but not being able to relate to or sound like other kids and having to put in effort to relate to them. One of my best friends in 8th grade was a senior in high school.
- Feeling things intensely. Being an empath/but not having that part nurtured
- Great detailed memory of childhood events
- Filmographic memory in some cases (very very good at holding things in mind short term. I would be able to tell you the page number from a text book that the answer is on/where on the page to find it, but that might fade after a week or two)
- Making “strange” associations with attention to detail. I remember a classmate in 2nd grade writing and the shape of his hand looked in a “G” to me and the word “grief’ came into my mind so whenever I saw him writing, my brain would automatically think of those things.
- Feeling at home in nature and not at home among human things and human problems. Sometimes I would hear music and feel so present and happy it was almost painful.
Enough about me, here are some quotes I love from the work. I may even have my students read some of these pieces in the class I teach on diversity in Spring semester.
Sometimes, my soul can hear music
That I know nobody else can hear
You’re welcome here.
I often felt so different, on a fundamental level. I couldn’t understand other kids, why they cared about what they did, why they talked about certain things I had no interest in. I stopped trying to be friends with a group of girls in elementary school because I didn’t understand why they seemed to choose a new person to be mad at each day and I just didn’t care enough to try to understand. It got annoying and I’d rather play kickball. I fit in with boys until it was evident that I wasn’t one of them either. I didn’t want to play “pretend we’re puppies” with the girls and I was on the fringes of my guy friend group– having one close girl friend throughout elementary and middle school, with mostly guy friends. I had fun too, but I always had this deep underlying notion that I didn’t relate to people or the world the want that most people did… as if there were some lesson or language I just didn’t understand that everyone else seemed born with. I don’t know what that is. Autism? Trauma? Being an empath? All of the above? Whatever it is, I think it’s helpful to think about and recognize that other people have actually had similar experiences to mine, even though in this book I don’t have that piece about being a person of color, it was still comforting (and enraging) to read what some of these people go through.
Great read. Pick it up.