Monday, January 18, 2016

The Reason I Jump - Naoki Higashima

The Reason I Jump
Title: The Reason I Jump
Author: Naoki Higashida
Publication Date: 2005
Pages: 135
Genre: Memoir / Nonfiction
How I Found It: The Daily Show
Date Completed: 12/28/15

Summary: A severely autistic teenage boy responds to common questions about the disease and what it is like to with it.

What I Thought: Back when I saw this book discussed on The Daily Show about 100 years ago, I knew it was something I should read. I had great intentions of doing so soon. Yet, somehow, it wasn't until I was reaching the end of 2015 and looking for a short book to boost my end-of-year total count that I finally snagged this one from my library's digital reserves. I am so glad I did.

I have never been close to anyone with autism or, as far as I know for certain, anyone on the spectrum. Thus, the growing epidemic in our country and around the world has always seemed distant to me. It still does. I am so thankful that to this point, I remain virtually untouched by the disorder. I know that won't last forever. That's why this book is so important.

In a lot of ways, I feel about this book the same way I did about Susan Cain's Quiet. It opens the reader's eyes to a portion of the population they may or may not know anything about. The stigma is removed and the inner workings are explained, taking away the mystery or the instinctual aversion to those different than us. While introverts are certainly more prevalent than the autistic, the margin is probably smaller than any of us realize. All the more reason to learn about what it is like to live with it. 

Higashida ranks high on the autism spectrum. From my understanding, he is nonverbal and communicates through a system of writing and pointing to letters and words on a prearranged grid. The fact that he wrote a book in such a fashion is impressive in and of itself. That he chose to write about the day to day experiences and emotions of the autistic, a population that, like Higashida, often cannot speak for themselves, makes his accomplishment even more laudable. 

This book was so eye-opening for me. I learned so much about autism in such a small time frame. Higashida does not write in the typical prosaic fashion. Rather, on each page he answers a different question about autism and the experience of having it. You can easily imagine that these questions are ones he receives often or wishes he could easily express answers to on a regular basis. I could not get over how insightful Higashida is, particularly for such a young man (he wrote the book as a young teenager). I will absolutely be recommending this to anyone I know dealing with autism in their personal circle and will undoubtedly return to its pages should the time come that person is me. 

More than anything, I was struck with the mantra I am constantly pounding into the minds of my Critical Thinking students: spending time with and learning from those different than you makes you a better, richer, more thoughtful person. I say some variation of that almost once a week in class, constantly nudging them away from social homogeny. Yet, it's a crutch I myself fall on more regularly than I would like to admit. I want to continue to grow and build relationships with those different than myself. On the days when living in a fairly small, Southern city feels restrictive in accomplishing that, I am thankful to have books like this one to help broaden my horizons and my understanding of my fellow humans. 

Quote I Loved: "When I was small, I didn't even know that I was a kid with special needs. How did I find out? By other people telling my that I was different from everyone else, and that this was a problem. ...If autism was regarded simply as a personality type, things would be so much easier and happier for us than they are now."

Rating: ★★★★☆
Will I Re-Read: I will if anyone close to me is ever diagnosed with or battles autism.

A Reduced Review: This inside perspective on living with autism is short, but poignant.

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