The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy with Autism
by Naoki Higashida
I first heard of this book when Jon Stewart had David Mitchell, a successful author in his own right and the man who translated this book from Japanese to English with the help of his wife, KA Yoshida, on his show several weeks ago. I was intrigued by Jon’s enthusiasm about the book, and although I do not have a child with autism, I do have a child with Down syndrome (which is very different from autism, to be sure), and enough friends with children with autism that my curiosity was piqued. Just being a parent of a child with a developmental disability, I think, makes me curious about other developmental disabilities.
My guess is that when reading this book, whether or not the reader has a close personal relationship with someone with autism probably influences the reader’s reception of the book. A blog I follow that is written by a parent of a child with autism reviewed this book and felt that it was like having a conversation with her son that she has longed for. I felt like I gained some insight into an autistic mind reading this book, but it didn’t blow me away. There have been criticisms of the book elsewhere, and speculation that Mitchell might have taken too much artistic license with his translation and that it might not actually be an authentic reflection of the original author’s thoughts. I have no opinion one way or the other as far as that goes – not having a personal connection to autism, I’m really not in a place to say whether or not this book authentically reflects an autistic mind.
It’s a quick read – I read it in a day. Originally written when Naoki Higashida was 13 (he’s now 21), it’s eloquent, humorous, both precocious and adolescent, and insightful. I was bothered by his constant use of “us autistic kids” and “we” – as if he were speaking for all autistic people. While I’m sure there are commonalities among people with autism, like any other group of people, each are unique; it would therefore be a mistake, I think, to assume that this boy’s experience of autism is the universal experience of autism. What stood out to me most was actually something my husband is fond of saying, and that is, “Everyone is coming from somewhere.” In that way, reading this book gave me pause about my five-year old son who has Down syndrome: even when I don’t understand him, even when he does things that confound me, he’s coming from somewhere.
Definitely worth reading, but I think opinions and perceptions of the book will vary pretty widely.