Happy Friday, my dear reading friends! Just finished up Look Me in the Eyes- autobiography that details the life of John Elder Robison as he struggles with Asperger’s syndrome. Since this is an autobiography, it is more difficult for me “review”… I feel if I detail too much about it, I just end up giving away all the awesome bits that make up this great story. I’ll do my best to give you an idea about the book, and my feelings about it, without spoiling Robison’s breakthroughs he has throughout.
This memoir was interesting to read, in my opinion, because it has an odd combination of memory recall and current event telling. Most often, the chapters focused on one development for Robison and detailed that over the course of his whole life. Each chapter seemed to slightly overlap the previous “phase” in his life by a few years. Not to say it was bad or good, it was just an interesting way to express the story.
The story that Robison shares is INCREDIBLE! It was so intriguing. I have no interest in things that Robison had experienced his whole life. I’ve never created an explosive, or cared for KISS, or liked the mechanics of electronics of any kinds… and you most definitely would never see me working on anything automotive… despite all of that, I found myself so compelled to this story. He sparked my interest, and I found myself looking up more information about some of the stuff he wrote about (mostly about KISS and their guitars/shows). Anytime that an author can nudge a reader to step outside the book to investigate is a total success, if you ask me.
Obviously, the most important part of this story is Robison’s life long struggle with his Asperger’s. If you are not aware this is what Asperger’s is:
“Asperger’s syndrome (also known as Asperger’s Disorder) was first described in the 1940s by Viennese pediatrician Hans Asperger, who observed autism-like behaviors and difficulties with social and communication skills in boys who had normal intelligence and language development.”
I easily found this definition at http://www.autism-society.org/what-is/aspergers-syndrome/ , however, at Robison’s time of birth, up until the age of 40, this information was not widely known by the health industry -nonverbal autism was really the only form of autism that was acknowledged at the time. The symptoms of his autism were simply deemed as a person who was unusual, particular, and even as challenging. There truly was no support for him at the time that could provide him with information about why he was “different”. Now-a-days, you hear people constantly say that children are over diagnosed for everything… After reading this book, I pause to think whether they are over diagnosing now, or they simply have the tools to see a diagnoses that wasn’t seen the generation before? Robison’s story proves that could be a true possibility.
At the end of LMitE, at least the paper copy that I purchased, Robison makes a good point that this book is so wildly popular because it is so relate-able! Is it not the basis of human desire to be accepted, to be loved, and to be supported? I would say we have all stretched to be part of the “in” crowd at one point or another. The beautiful thing about Robison is that he did not stretch so far to be someone, or something, he was not. Although many times he felt himself a fraud, he knew what he was doing and fit in as much as the next guy.
I personally struggle with social anxieties, and I could closely relate to those struggles Robison had as a child, adolescent, and young adulthood. For me, my social issues didn’t appear until after I hit young adulthood. I was a devoted athlete, and was fortunate to have that second family up until I graduated high school. Once away from school, it was easier to become more introverted, and here I have stayed. Perhaps, like Robison, I will get better with age… but right now there doesn’t seem to be anything changing my situation of awkward banter and weird interactions. In fact, the internet just further helps me stay my hermit self. For people like me, the internet allows us to express myself 100%… although people may still be nasty back, at least we do not have to face them as the metaphoric shit hits the fan.
There were just two things that I found “troubling” about this book… the first was that many times Robison writes about being a huge prankster… but I had no firm knowledge if he was pranking me throughout the book. Surely he made some of this up or threw in some embellishments to get us! I have my skepticism, but I will try to let that go. The second was that he hinted that there were things that were too hard to recall regarding his mother. All this statement did was spark my interest as to what it could have been. He never addressed that again. Although I can appreciate that some topics can not be addressed in public, I would have found it better not to even mention that there were things he was going to omit.
Overall, this book was a quick, enlightening, and fun read! It allows the reader to experience life through the eyes of an Aspergian. It gave hope that even if you feel lost as a child, or young adult, success is still an option. I think the biggest message in this book is that you are not a failure unless you give up. Robison never once just gave up. He continued to reach for new phases of his life with conviction and stamped out the hateful voices that tried to prevent him from doing so. I’m happy that I bought this book for my personal collection already.
Check one off my reading list! Whoop, Whoop!
PS- Apparently, the hardback copy of this book is the original version and is curse-word laden. If I had known prior to purchase, I most definitely would have bought that one instead. Anyone that knows me personally knows I speak like a sailor!
PSS- Be prepared to add Running With Scissors by Augusten Burroughs on your reading list… One down, another added.