What did you think of the short stories Naoki included?
I wasn’t particularly fond of them. They were…short stories written by a thirteen year-old. Also, by the last short story I was really thinking about the issue of translation. Translators make decisions. I’ve read different translations of Pushkin’s poems and been amazed at how different the same poem can be in English. I don’t doubt that Higashida is a smart, well-“spoken,” young man, but I think it’s important to remember that this is a translation.
I know some of us talked about this already, but I’m still curious – what did everyone think of his use of the word “we” to describe his feelings and experiences?
The “we” really bugged me, moreso in the second half when things got more spiritual/nature-oriented—things that seem perhaps more culturally-oriented than autism-oriented. (Also, is the “we” Higashida’s word or Mitchell and Yoshida’s word?)
When talking to my husband about this last night, he commented, “It’s like that story about the autistic kid with the dog. Now, suddenly, every autistic kid needs an animal in their life.”
What did you think of the book overall?
While reading, I became concerned that The Reason I Jump had been written through some manner of facilitated communication, which can be very biased toward the facilitator’s wants. So, I poked around the internet and came upon a review by Temple Grandin. When asked to review the book, she had the same concern. Her reservations were allayed, and she wrote an interesting review comparing Higashida’s experience to her own and to other biographies.
I found some of the questions kind of odd. For example: “What do you think about running races?” I feel like that question came after the answer.
I think it’s important to see people with autism as people. Not people who became broken. Not people who need to be cured. It’s easy to be inclusive of diversity when diversity is easy to see. Being accepting of someone who thinks in a radically different way than most of us (and therefore behaves and communicates differently) is a difficult thing. I’d like to think that books like The Reason I Jump can provide some insight.
But then there was stuff like this:
“I think that people with autism are born outside the regime of civilization. Sure, this is just my own made-up theory, but I think that, as a result of all the killings in the world and the selfish planet-wrecking that humanity has committed, a deep sense of crisis exists. Autism has somehow arisen out of this. Although people with autism look like other people physically, we are in fact very different in many ways. We are more like travelers from the distant, distant past. And if, by our being here, we could help the people of the world remember what truly matters for the Earth, that would give us a quiet pleasure.”
And it’s too fanciful for my practical mind. Autism is not a new thing. It’s been around a long time, though we may not have called it autism. At best, this type of quote shows me that Higashida is a kid, that he doesn’t yet have context for his experiences. At worst, I half agree with Michael Fitzpatrick. He argues that The Reason I Jump is a very comforting fantasy for parents of autistic kids. Who wouldn’t want their child, whom they’re having a hard time understanding, to be more than just a person?