Read this memoir about an autistic life

I have this love/hate, uncomfortable sensation to being an author/editor in the autism literary space.  On the one hand, I am not autistic, so it doesn’t seem right to have books about autism with my name on them.  On the other hand, I am talented at finding autistic folks to tell their stories so even more people can learn from them.  So, I belong in the autism community, but more like my sheepdog: I have a role, rather than the inside autistic scoop.

One thing I LOVE about being published, though, is reciprocity: Just as I had to ask people to write about my future-book, now other authors ask me to read their on-the-cusp-of-publication books.  I have no qualms about my role in this part of the publication world: I have the privilege of reading, firsthand, what folks have to say about their experiences, and then I have the opportunity to help get their books out into the world. I LOVE to read, and I love learning about people.  Win, win.

With great pleasure, I strongly recommend reading What I Mean When I Say I’m Autistic: Unpuzzling a Life on the Autism Spectrum by Annie Kotowicz.  Annie has been writing under the pen name Neurobeautiful, and is now presenting her work under her own name.

Annie has a delightful writing style: She employs accessible language and is quite artistic in her expression. She is gentle in her word choice, even when she subtly disagrees with what she has been cultured to believe.  She is open to contradictions in experiences, even within the same person. She has some great examples from her own life (see packing socks for travel) that illustrate the “rules” that we seem to live by, and what happens if we violate those rules.

Annie’s book is a must-read for any therapist who wants to understand the autistic experience.  This is also a must-read for anyone who loves an autistic human, is an autistic human, or interfaces with autistics (and hey, that should cover 100% of our reading population, so get this book!).

In an attempt to understand my experience with this book, I found myself conflicted (hey, just like Annie!).  I found myself rushing through the book, wanting to learn more, solidify what I think I know, and integrate new information.  I also found myself wanting to be the world’s slowest reader, savoring each and every sentence, absorbing the artistry and truth in every sentence.

As I was reading, I was trying to find a sentence or two that would best convey Annie’s talents.  I would select a sentence, thinking, “this is it!” then read the next sentence and think THAT was the best sentence.  Seriously, it cannot be done: Annie’s writing cannot be distilled down to a single best sentence, just as her life experiences cannot be distilled down to simplicity.  She is complex, and amazing!

No matter how you read the book (with haste/slowly, wondering if she has been taking notes on your life, marveling at her word choice!), do be sure to read What I Mean When I Say I’m Autistic!