How Apple’s Siri made a life-altering difference for an autistic boy.
Expanded from a viral New York Times op-ed column she penned in 2014, this new book by Allure contributing editor Newman (You Make Me Feel Like an Unnatural Woman: Diary of a New (Older) Woman, 2004, etc.) compiles bittersweet anecdotes about her son Gus’ bond with the Apple app Siri. “Autism does not entirely define my son, but it informs so much about him and our life together,” writes the author, who birthed twin sons Gus and Henry prematurely. Writing with wit, humor, and effervescent honesty, Newman charts her history with twin sons who became distinctly different even prior to their first birthdays. Gus began exhibiting a marked lack of interest in his surroundings, eating only one food type at a time, and notable developmental and communicative delays. When he was diagnosed at age 6 as being on the autistic spectrum, Newman asked herself why and attempted to find and place causative blame. As Gus matured, she was continually heartbroken by the cruelty of children and even ill-mannered adults, yet she was also empowered to make a difference in her son’s life by observing, learning, and making his experience as close to happiness as she could. Among the many challenges were Gus’ growth impediments and numerous doctor appointments where she felt judged. The author also shares stories of how Henry grew up as the doting brother who always loved Gus yet often became exasperated. Early on, Gus had an affinity for music and singing, and Newman writes gleefully of his development of a “relationship” with Siri. This odd yet endearing pairing comprises the book’s rewarding and adorable closing third, a funny, warmhearted narrative of wry wisdom derived from the foibles of both Gus and Henry and powered by a maternal love that autism could never compromise. “In a world where the commonly held wisdom is that technology isolates us,” writes the author, “it’s worth considering another side of the story.”
A powerful and heartfelt “slice of life” tale.