The Reason I Jump. Finished 2-25-14, autism memoir, 150 pages, pub. 2007 (English translation 2013)
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.
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.
Reading books told from the perspective of a person with autism is hard for me. It’s difficult to imagine my Gage having to deal with all of that on a daily basis, but I read the introduction written by bestselling author David Mitchell, whose own son suffers from autism, and decided that this one would be worth the read. And it was. Yes, there was a place or two I cried, but overall this book gives some hope and clarity. This is a 13-year-old boy who can’t speak and yet has the ability to communicate his feelings letter by letter, word by word, paragraph by paragraph.
I think everyone should read this book. It’s short, the book contains illustrations and a few pieces of short fiction by Higashida, but the bulk of it is Higashida showing the world that autism does not mean unintelligent or unaware and that they are hurt when they disappoint the people they love. Every person with an autism diagnosis is not the same, not even close, each one having strengths and problem areas- just like every other kid, but everyone will gain a better perspective after an hour with this book. He does not speak for every autistic child, like he sometimes says he does, but he does offer a real insight into his emotional world.
I wish there had been more, but what there was is good. Did you know that in the U.S. 1 in 54 boys is being diagnosed on the spectrum? I think everyone should take the time to learn a little more. Here’s a taste of one of the questions…
Why do you ask the same questions over and over?
It’s true, I always ask the same questions. “What day is it today?” or “Is it a school day tomorrow?” The reason? I very quickly forget what it is I’ve just heard. Inside my head there isn’t such a big difference between what I was told just now and what I heard long ago.
I imagine a normal person’s memory is arranged continuously, like a line. My memory, however, is more like a pool of dots. I’m always “picking up” these dots – by asking my questions – so I can arrive back at the memory that the dots represent.
But there’s another reason for our repeated questioning: it lets us play with words. We aren’t good at conversation, and however hard we try, we’ll never speak as effortlessly as you do. The big exception, however, is words or phrases we’re very familiar with. Repeating these is great fun. It’s like a game of catch. Unlike the words we’re ordered to say, repeating questions we already know the answers to can be a pleasure – it’s playing with sound and rhythm.
I checked this out from our library.