Girls Heart Books will close on May 1st this year. After being part of the site for almost 3 years, I’ve been feeling a little nostalgic and have started to flick through old blog posts. I was surprised to discover one that I never published. I’m not entirely sure why – I may have run a competition instead. Anyway, given the site will disappear soon, I thought I’d use this month’s slot to post it, as the thoughts and the book recommendations are still valid.
So here is a Throw Back to 2015. This is the blogpost I intended to post on this date, two years ago.
March has been a brilliantly crazy month, with the launch of a new book, several million school visits, an in-store event with my face on balloons (slightly scary, but I loved it) and a week of utter wonderfulness as an author at the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature. Life doesn’t get much better than that. It also doesn’t get much busier. So it was nice to grab a free moment between events at the Lit Fest to relax and think bookish thoughts.
As I peered over my teacup, I realised I was sharing the Lit Fest’s Green Room with two of my favourite authors – Graeme Simsion and Kathy Hoopmann. Just as I was about to launch myself at them and tell them how I’m always buying their books for friends and families, I remembered WHY I’m always buying their books and thought it would be an interesting topic to discuss this month.
It’s an Aspergers thing.
I come from an Aspergertastic family in which a significant number of family members have been diagnosed with Aspergers, and those who haven’t often display more traits of the syndrome than those who have.
Recently, there have been moves in the US to re-label Asperger Syndrome as an ‘Autism Spectrum Disorder’, which I don’t like, mainly because of the term ‘disorder.’ Being different doesn’t mean you’re disordered. It just means you’re different. It’s like describing left-handedness as a ‘hand spectrum disorder.’ Nonsensical.
In our family we don’t see Aspergers as a disability and if you ask those who’ve been diagnosed whether they’d take a pill that could ‘cure’ their ‘disorder’, most say they’d choose to stay as they are. The only thing they’d like to change is other people’s understanding of the syndrome.
There are negatives AND POSITIVES to being a child or an adult with Aspergery brain.
- You may not be brilliant at cooperating with others, but that can make you more creative and enable you to come up with unique ideas and solutions
- You may not be a huge social success, but you are likely to be more direct and honest and to value people for who they really are regardless of age, gender, class, race or religion
- You may spend more time alone, but your ability to focus can lead to achieve great things
- You may struggle to see ‘the big picture’, but you can solve puzzles and mysteries by noticing and remembering details others miss.
- You may not always get the jokes the group are sharing, but your unique perspective can help you see humour in particular words and images and help you find laughter in absurdity
It’s easy to tell people these things, but it often goes in one ear and out the other. That’s why BOOKS ARE BRILLIANT – they tell stories without lecturing and they let people take in as much information as they’re comfortable with.
Most of the books below aren’t ‘about Aspergers’ but leave readers knowing more about those who think differently. And, perhaps more importantly, they are all utterly brilliant reads. I’ve put them in ‘age order’, but that’s a guide rather than an instruction. Everyone should read whatever they want to read. Personally, I love and regularly re-visit every single one of these books.
For Younger Kids: ALL CATS HAVE ASPERGER SYNDROME by Kathy Hoopmann
This is a sweet, simple and touching introduction to Asperger Syndrome, which illustrates characteristics like sensory sensitivity, social difficulties, special interests and particular eating habits with pictures of cute cats doing daft things. What’s not to like? Linking Aspergers with the behaviour of antisocial yet much-loved pets is a great way to highlight the dignity and potential of people with Aspergers.
For Middle-Grade Kids: THE LONDON EYE MYSTERY by Siobhan Dowd
Sherlock, eat your heart out. Ted (who has Asperger Syndrome), tries to solve the mystery of his teenage cousin Salim’s disappearance from inside a sealed capsule on the London Eye. Ted is articulate and quirky, with an impressive mastery of facts and figures. It is Ted’s uniquely detached and logical way of thinking that solves the case.
For Teenagers: THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME by Mark Haddon
As the book’s 15 year old narrator explains, this is “not a book about Asperger’s …. It’s a novel about difference, about being an outsider, about seeing the world in a surprising and revealing ways.”
For adults: THE ROSIE PROJECT by Graeme Simsion
Don Tillman doesn’t know he has Aspergers but the people around him find it obvious. He decides to look for a wife and creates a detailed, scientifically-rigorous questionnaire to identify suitable candidates. Thus begins the Wife Project.
For adults: THINKING IN PICTURES, MY LIFE WITH AUTISM by Temple Grandin.
Temple Grandin is my hero. She is a huge advocate of the idea of neurodiversity – the notion that those on the spectrum are simply differently wired and she is excellent at explaining the advantages of having an Asperger’s brain, particularly when it comes to her ability to think in images, with words as a secondary form of communication. These abilities led to her award-winning breakthroughs in animal science.
I’d love to hear from you if you’ve read any books that referenced Asperger’s that caught your attention, or made you think.