By: John Elder Robison
Publisher: Crown Publishers
Publication Date: September 2007
Reviewed by: Lauren E. Victor
Review Date: October 2008
"I realized I was standing outside, next to a pool full of kids and sunbathing parents, in my underwear, waving a smoking revolver." To many, perhaps this scenario would be considered a sign of insanity; for Robison it is one of many true to life gems that enrich his tale. Written by the brother of Augusten Borroughs (of Running with Scissors fame), this memoir shows another side of the family story. Yet beyond being just another familial chronicle, this work shows the unique perspective of what Robison refers to as an "Aspergian," or someone diagnosed with Asperger's, a syndrome on the autism spectrum. Through clear explanations and life examples we gain insight into the difficulty someone with Asperger's has in reading and reacting to social cues like that of facial expressions or conversational nuances, understandings that most of us naturally take for granted.
Along the way, Robison takes us through a childhood full of social missteps and an especially challenging set of parents, not failing to include experiences from a job on the road with KISS, as well as a job working for 'the man' at corporate Milton Bradley, rounded out with tales from the ultimate prankster. A book not for the faint of heart, it is interspersed with undoubtedly dark moments amidst his personal triumphs.
The author's writing flows intuitively, reflecting his preference for a utilitarian approach seen in many aspects of his work and lifestyle. He is clear, forthright and is a trusted voice while coloring, well, a colorful life story. If his brother's memoir Running with Scissors was hard to believe, it could be said that this memoir confirms a youth where truth is much stranger than fiction.
Robison proves to be a sort of hero, actually. He survives an abusive childhood, as well as a lifetime of being undiagnosed, a factor that left him feeling quite different from the norm without having the comfort of a concrete reason. Yet, despite this condition that brings along severe social challenges, he is a successful individual of his own right and trains himself on how to work within society's standard operating procedures.
Ultimately, this is the story of an individual who has learned to live in his own truth and has successfully harnessed the humor found in even the darkest of moments. Although the final few chapters feel like a choppy addition to the storyline continuum, laughing aloud at various intervals throughout the book is practically a guarantee. Hopefully this book will reach a broader audience spreading awareness and improving understanding about Asperger's; although, it is still important to remember that this is a rendering of just one man's experience.
Quill Says: If you like peeking into the unique adventures and thought processes of another person, this book will quench that thirst.