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Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger's

Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger's 2014-02-09


Brent submitted a new resource:

Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger's - As sweet and funny and sad and true and heartfelt a memoir as one could find.

Ever since he was young, John Robison longed to connect with other people, but by the time he was a teenager, his odd habits—an inclination to blurt out non sequiturs, avoid eye contact, dismantle radios, and dig five-foot holes (and stick his younger brother, Augusten Burroughs, in them)—had earned him the label “social deviant.” It was not until he was forty that he was diagnosed with a form of autism called Asperger’s syndrome. That understanding transformed the way he saw himself—and the...

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Just started listening to this book. Very good so far. Read his other book, Be Different (or something like that) with a train on the cover. Excited to finally have started this book!
About five years ago in my mid fifties I heard a guy on NPR say he didn't pick up on social cues. I always felt like that but never dreamed it was a thing. I just googled "don't pick up on social cues" which led me to this book. I chose it because the author is the brother of Augusten Burroughs so I read about him in his brother's books. This book showed me who I was. It brought so many strange things about me all under one umbrella. It's really true. You never forget your first. And I'm really glad that when I heard about it for the first time it was from someone who was also on the spectrum.
I read this book over the weekend.

I enjoyed it, but I felt the target audience was NTs with Aspergians in their life. It would be useful for them to read, to get some insight into those Aspergians. Mostly, Robison's thought processes seemed normal to me, which I don't think was the idea.

That being said, as someone who also was not diagnosed until midlife, I could definitely relate. A couple parts even suggested that my thought processes in certain situations are Aspergian, not considered normal to a most NTs

Overall, an enjoyable and insightful read. I wish I could figure out a way to recommend it to family members, who don't know about my diagnosis.
Review #33

As much as I don’t like resorting to stereotypes, most people on the spectrum fall into one of two types:

  • The ones who know they’re different but try their best to blend in, but found themselves struggling
  • The ones who know they’re different and don’t care about blending in and openly rebel, garnering attention from school authorities, etc.
The vast majority of the memoirs I’ve read thus far fall into the first category, with Holliday-Willey’s Pretending to be Normal being a classic of the first genre. I should note that while it is not exclusively female, that females on the spectrum tend to fall into the first camp more, which may explain why they are not identified or diagnosed as much as children – because while they struggle, they often to fit in, whereas the latter, which tends to be boys, due to their open rebellion, tend to get more attention.

If you’ve been following my reviews, the majority of the literature I’ve read are women’s memoirs, which I related a lot to. How did I find Look Me in the Eye, a rather different story that is squarely in the second category I’ve outlined above?

To be honest, I struggled with a lot of it. As Robison acknowledged himself, he was quite the troublemaker, and I didn’t relate to many of his stories, of which his big one (which he builds up into) was rather reprehensible. I actually cried after one story because he was lamenting how things were bad for him, when I had it way worse. I'm not sure if he realizes it or not, but he actually had some pretty good luck in his life. I’ve been sad before when reading memoirs, but I’ve never cried until this one. I was sufficiently upset that I’m writing this review without having given the book two readings, as I usually do, because I don’t think I could sit through it again.

I should note that Robison is quite detailed in his descriptions, and I’m very easily able to picture the scenes that he describes, whether they be on the farm, one of his antics, living in the bush, or at one of his varied workplaces. His story is an important one as it talks of his growing up in the 70s, an era when what is now Asperger’s was not yet known. It’s also interesting in that he grew up in a broken family, though this didn’t impact him as much as one may expect – the fact that his father was a professor which gave him access to university labs as a teenager helped him find alternate ways of learning on his own, and played a part in his ultimate success.

The copy I read and am reviewing here is the softcover edition, which is supposed to be the “clean” version. However, notwithstanding that, there was some “colour commentary”, but worse than that, what to me was a blatant homophobic comment that I was stunned to see in print, without a trigger warning or adequate explanation. I found this rather regrettable, especially from a bestseller. These editing failures warrant a significant penalty in my scoring. (I have no problem with profanities or inappropriate comments if they were contemporary with an era and form part of the story - as long as there is a warning and appropriate context is provided)

While I have reservations about the book, the relatively uniqueness of his experiences does allow one to see a different story than the ones usually told, a story of someone whom school authorities didn’t like, but where he didn’t really need school either and was able to find his own way (with some “fake it till you make it”) to accomplishing several impressive life goals.

Score: 4.0/6.0
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It is a great book from a man who had an uneviable childhood. It is true his younger years provided great source material for a writer (including his brother) but he seemed glad to get away from his parents as soon as he could.

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