A 13-year-old Japanese author illuminates his autism from within, making a connection with those who find the condition frustrating, mysterious or impenetrable.
For the renowned novelist David Mitchell, who provides the introduction and collaborated on the translation, this book is “a revelatory godsend.” The father of a young autistic son, Mitchell had never felt well-served by books written by others who provided care for the autistic or by more scholarly analyses of the condition. The book takes the form of a series of straightforward questions followed by answers that are typically no longer than a couple of paragraphs or pages. “We really badly want you to understand what’s going on inside our hearts and minds,” writes Higashida. “And basically, my feelings are pretty much the same as yours.” He describes the difficulty of expressing through words what the brain wants to say, the challenge of focusing and ordering experience, the obsessiveness of repetition, the comfort found in actions that others might find odd, and the frustration of being the source of others’ frustration. “We don’t obsess over certain things because we like it, or because we want to,” he writes. “People with autism obsess over certain things because we’d go crazy if we didn’t. By performing whatever action it is, we feel a bit soothed and calmed down.” In addition to demystifying his condition and translating his experience, the author intersperses some short fables and a concluding short story that shows remarkable empathy and imagination, as the death of an autistic boy leaves a family transformed. “[Higashida] says that he aspires to be a writer, but it’s obvious to me that he already is one,” writes Mitchell.
Anyone struggling to understand autism will be grateful for the book and translation.