This month the Nonfiction Book Club at Doing Dewey is reading The Reason I Jump by Naoki Higashida. Here is a quick synopsis from Goodreads.
You’ve never read a book like The Reason I Jump. Written by Naoki Higashida, a very smart, very self-aware, and very charming thirteen-year-old boy with autism, it is a one-of-a-kind memoir that demonstrates how an autistic mind thinks, feels, perceives, and responds in ways few of us can imagine. Parents and family members who never thought they could get inside the head of their autistic loved one at last have a way to break through to the curious, subtle, and complex life within.
Using an alphabet grid to painstakingly construct words, sentences, and thoughts that he is unable to speak out loud, Naoki answers even the most delicate questions that people want to know. Questions such as: “Why do people with autism talk so loudly and weirdly?” “Why do you line up your toy cars and blocks?” “Why don’t you make eye contact when you’re talking?” and “What’s the reason you jump?” (Naoki’s answer: “When I’m jumping, it’s as if my feelings are going upward to the sky.”) With disarming honesty and a generous heart, Naoki shares his unique point of view on not only autism but life itself. His insights—into the mystery of words, the wonders of laughter, and the elusiveness of memory—are so startling, so strange, and so powerful that you will never look at the world the same way again.
In his introduction, bestselling novelist David Mitchell writes that Naoki’s words allowed him to feel, for the first time, as if his own autistic child was explaining what was happening in his mind. “It is no exaggeration to say that The Reason I Jumpallowed me to round a corner in our relationship.” This translation was a labor of love by David and his wife, KA Yoshida, so they’d be able to share that feeling with friends, the wider autism community, and beyond. Naoki’s book, in its beauty, truthfulness, and simplicity, is a gift to be shared.
This is a really short book so there is still plenty of time for you to jump in and discuss it with us. Read more on Katie’s blog here. Katie is also hosting discussions on the book, Here are the first set of questions, along with my answers.
Is the tone of the book what you expected, from someone with autism and/or from a thirteen year old boy?
I’m not sure I had any expectations. He does seem perceptive, and at the same time he seems a bit — I’m not quite sure how to word it, so I will say ‘self-centered’ but I don’t think that is exactly what I mean. He seems to feel his experiences are universal to all who have autism, and I’m not sure that is true. At times I had to remind myself that he is only thirteen years old.
Have you learned anything that has surprised you so far?
I’m not sure I am surprised by anything because I had no expectations. But I am a little saddened by how often Naoki expresses that he ‘hates’ himself because of mistakes he makes or because he makes others unhappy or uncomfortable.
Do you think that you would interact with someone who has autism differently after reading this book?
Probably not. I understand better what that person might be feeling or thinking, but sadly, I am not a very outgoing person. I’m not sure understanding would make me more outgoing and able to set the other person at ease. (I sometimes wonder if I am on the autism spectrum somewhere.)
David Mitchell says that the problems of socialization and communication people with autism display “are not symptoms of autism but consequences.” What does he mean exactly...what is the difference as Mitchell sees it? (source)
I do understand what he is saying about communication being locked up inside the person, even though they understand very well what is being said and are aware of their surroundings. As I read the early part of the book, I thought how much it reminds me of Alzheimer’s patients and other patients with communication problems who become so frustrated because they know exactly what they want to say, but are unable to communicate this information. The inability to communicate is a result of their disease; but it is also a symptom.
That’s it for now. You can read Katie’s answers here and share your own. And look for the second set of questions coming later this month!