Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Book Review: The Reason I Jump by Naoki Higashida

You’ve never read a book like The Reason I Jump. Written by Naoki Higashida, a very smart, very self-aware, and very charming thirteen-year-old boy with autism, it is a one-of-a-kind memoir that demonstrates how an autistic mind thinks, feels, perceives, and responds in ways few of us can imagine. Parents and family members who never thought they could get inside the head of their autistic loved one at last have a way to break through to the curious, subtle, and complex life within.

Using an alphabet grid to painstakingly construct words, sentences, and thoughts that he is unable to speak out loud, Naoki answers even the most delicate questions that people want to know. Questions such as: “Why do people with autism talk so loudly and weirdly?” “Why do you line up your toy cars and blocks?” “Why don’t you make eye contact when you’re talking?” and “What’s the reason you jump?” (Naoki’s answer: “When I’m jumping, it’s as if my feelings are going upward to the sky.”) With disarming honesty and a generous heart, Naoki shares his unique point of view on not only autism but life itself. His insights—into the mystery of words, the wonders of laughter, and the elusiveness of memory—are so startling, so strange, and so powerful that you will never look at the world the same way again.

In his introduction, bestselling novelist David Mitchell writes that Naoki’s words allowed him to feel, for the first time, as if his own autistic child was explaining what was happening in his mind. “It is no exaggeration to say that The Reason I Jump allowed me to round a corner in our relationship.” This translation was a labor of love by David and his wife, KA Yoshida, so they’d be able to share that feeling with friends, the wider autism community, and beyond. Naoki’s book, in its beauty, truthfulness, and simplicity, is a gift to be shared.


Very recently, our 9 year old was diagnosed with autism. We had suspected for a while that this was the case but after being told by his pediatrician that he "can't have autism because he looks at people when they talk" and then the same by a diagnostician at his school ... I'll be honest, I was nervous about talking to someone else about our concerns.

Anyhow, he was officially diagnosed and I immediately ran to the bookstore to see what I could find to obsess over while I found out everything I could about his diagnosis. The Reason I Jump was the very first book that I picked up and when I started to thumb through it, I landed on a page about talking loudly, which is something that our son does. I read what Naoki had to say about it and I just knew that I would have to get this book.

I became a little emotional just reading the introduction at the beginning of the book. The things it said brought me to tears. The tears weren't just from sadness, it was also relief. Every single autistic child is different but I could see little pieces of our youngest in these pages and I knew that the battle we had been engaged in wasn't one that we are fighting alone.

That being said, some of the things that Naoki wrote seemed a little ... old ... for a thirteen year old. I'm not totally for sure if this was a word for word translation (or if things were changed) or if this child has a way above average IQ or what but this read a bit too old for a teenager. And then some of the things that he touched on seemed a little far fetched. But what the hell do I know. I'm just raising an autistic kiddo, I wasn't one and what Naoki said could be the absolute truth.

All in all, it was a nice insight to a condition that I'm completely ignorant of and it was nice to be given some little hints as to what our son experiences on a daily basis. Definitely one that I would recommend to any parents of the newly diagnosed. It's nice to read something that isn't clinical and that doesn't read like the ingredient list on your shampoo bottle. 

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