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LOOK ME IN THE EYE by John Elder Robison

LOOK ME IN THE EYE

My Life with Asperger’s

By John Elder Robison

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2007
ISBN: 978-0-307-39598-6
Publisher: Crown

Affecting, on occasion surprisingly comic memoir about growing up with Asperger’s syndrome.

Those who have this autism spectrum disorder are often seen as weird, because of their odd mannerisms and expressions and their difficulties in talking to other people. But Asperger’s may also confer rare talents, such as the ability to focus intently and to think rapidly and creatively, notes the author, who wrote this text at the urging of younger brother Augusten Burroughs (Running with Scissors, 2002, etc.). A social misfit helped not at all by a battery of therapists, Robison admits that his behavior was decidedly disturbing, sometimes foolish and often dangerous. Asperger’s can lead to a life of isolation, but the author credits interested adults with drawing him out as a child and keeping him engaged with human beings. He dropped out of high school at age 15 and left home at 16, impelled by a troubled family situation (alcoholic father, mentally disturbed mother) into the working world. While people were a mystery to him, machines were not. He became a self-taught sound engineer for rock bands and later a designer of electronic toys. The discovery at age 40 that his strangeness had a name altered Robison’s view of himself, giving him a new confidence and enabling him to find more acceptable ways of coping with other people. He has learned to look them in the eye and even make small talk. His essays on choosing a wife and on naming people (he calls his spouse Unit Two, because she’s a middle sister) suggest that the prankster in him still lives, but they also demonstrate the oddness of the Asperger’s mind. Chapters on his son and on his late discovery of friendship are truly moving.

The view from inside this little-understood disorder offers both cold comfort and real hope, which makes it an exceptionally useful contribution to the literature.