Just as Rain Man used to be the only movie out there about autism, for the longest time The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time was the only novel. Don’t get me wrong, Mark Haddon does a brilliant job with prime-number loving truth-crusading, 15-year-old Christopher Boone. And The Curious Incident is a great story, but it’s not the only story.
The ironic thing is that when I copped hold of the book back in 2004, I - like so many people - knew nothing about autism, let alone heard of its higher-functioning cousin, Aspergers. Four years later, I went on to give birth to a Christopher Boone of my own.
Good literature forces us to walk in the shoes of someone vastly different to us. It transports us to other centuries, to other galaxies, even, and makes us think beyond the box.
Sometimes it holds a mirror up to our lives and helps us make sense of our reality. That certainly rings true in the case of these books about autism. I saw my son and myself in so many of the pages... Whether memoir or fiction or poetry, reading is a powerful reminder that human emotion is universal; we are not alone.
Whether or not autism is on your radar, these are some excellent titles worth checking out:
“Rose Howard is obsessed with homonyms. She's thrilled that her own name is a homonym, and she purposely gave her dog Rain a name with two homonyms (Reign, Rein) … When a storm hits their rural town, rivers overflow, the roads are flooded, and Rain goes missing. Rose's father shouldn't have let Rain out. Now Rose has to find her dog, even if it means leaving her routines and safe places to search.”
Why read it:
Rose is a direct counterpoint to Christopher Boone – a girl with high-functioning autism. Her obsession with homonyms (rather than prime numbers) is at once charming and cloying. Martin expertly conveys Rose’s innocence as well as her anxiety and confusion at a world she doesn’t understand. While deeply flawed, her father remains sympathetic as a single parent struggling to understand his child. Deceptively simple language belies the emotional depth of the story. Like Christopher before her, Rose is an unforgettable character.
“Alex loves his family, and yet he struggles to connect with his eight-year-old autistic son, Sam. The strain has pushed his marriage to the breaking point. But when father and son begin playing Minecraft together, the game opens up a whole new world for them to share.”
Why read it:
There’s no truth quite like your own. Stuart drew inspiration firsthand from raising a son with autism, and it shows. The account of one parent’s journey from denial to acceptance - not to mention the marital strain put on a couple - is about as authentic as it gets, even it steers toward a sappy ending. Expect a film adaptation written by Nick Hornby, starring Hugh Grant as the bumbling dad made good. And that’s no terrible thing.
“Evolution is a firsthand account of mothering a child who suffers from debilitating mental and developmental illnesses … It is an honest, brutal, introspective, and searching look into a life corrupted by a child's imbalanced mind and a mother’s search for strength.”
Why read it:
Part memoir, part poetry, Evolution goes where other autism books fear to tread. Unlike some other books, Vought doesn’t sugar-coat the devastation, heartbreak, and relentless love that comes with raising a child with autism and bipolar disorder. And a daughter, to boot. If you’re looking for a fluffy story about autism, Evolution isn’t it. But the imagery is rich and haunting and cathartic. Get your tissues handy.
“A first-date dud, socially awkward and overly fond of quick-dry clothes, genetics professor Don Tillman has given up on love, until a chance encounter gives him an idea ... He will design a questionnaire—a sixteen-page, scientifically researched questionnaire—to uncover the perfect partner.”
Why read it:
The wildly popular Rosie hardly needs an introduction. In ‘Aspie’ scientist Don Tillman, Simsion has created a hero as charming and funny as he is exasperating. He’s proof that love is possible, even for those wired differently. Rosie is a light read - a gentle introduction to the logical mind of an adult on the spectrum.
Image credit: bradleypjohnson