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Unforgiving: The Memoir of an Asperger Teen 2022-01-03

Growing up with Asperger's in the 1950s/60s

  1. VictorR

    VictorR Random Member V.I.P Member

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    VictorR submitted a new resource:

    Unforgiving: The Memoir of an Asperger Teen - Growing up with Asperger's in the 1950s/60s

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  2. VictorR

    VictorR Random Member V.I.P Member

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    I've been busy with school the past several months, and was glad this winter break to get the chance to do one review, my 24th. Unlike the other books I've reviewed before, which I got from various lists, this one came to me serendipitously, and I'm glad, for it's a relatively unique memoir.

    As the "back cover blurb" suggests, this is a story about childhood sexual abuse inter-spliced with a coming-of-age story of the summer of 1963, when they were sixteen. Effortlessly weaving between different threads, and masterfully using segues to introduce new characters, back stories, and events, she takes us on a journey through that summer, while also filling us in on the events over the past several years, and in some cases, also a brief glimpse ahead. This is one of the most beautifully written memoirs I've read, even if the content at times gets dark.

    If I were to describe this memoir using others, I would describe it as a teenage girl's coming of age summer in late-1950s / early 1960s small town Western Canada of Sandy Wilson's My American Cousin combined with the courageous and candid telling of abuse in multiple forms like Jennifer Cook O'Toole's Autism in Heels.

    This book is unique in giving up a glimpse of childhood abuse and the effects it can have on an adolescent who is already struggling to fit in and find their place. It permeates through the book, but the main descriptions, for those who would like a trigger warning, are in chapters 19 and 29.

    It is also unique in being published in the early 2010s, before the main wave of memoirs started coming out in the mid-2010s, in being about the experiences of an early baby boomer (of whom we are starting to see more identified), and in coming from someone who did not grow with with privilege. The last point is somewhat important to me as the stories of those who did not grow up with privilege often aren't heard, and this serves as a reminder of how it can be so much more difficult to face multiple barriers. With all due respect to Temple Grandin (Thinking in Pictures) and Jennifer Cook O'Toole, this story gives us a much more down to earth picture of life on the spectrum, one that many more women are likely to have lived and will live.

    As someone from a younger generation, one young enough to have taken a course in mid-20th century societal history as part of their undergraduate studies, and so familiar with television programs of the era like American Bandstand, Leave it to Beaver, and Father Knows Best, I really appreciated the care the author took to really drop us into the era, and in some cases, like charge accounts at retail stores, to explain them to those who might not be familiar with them. That being said, there were some explanations which aren't actually applicable (such as saying that they didn't have middle schools in that era, when the existence of middle schools depends on both time and place - they didn't exist for me), and on the other hand, she missed explaining some things that might have been second nature to her (e.g. crab louie - a salad which Wikipedia tells me was in vogue in the early to mid 20th century but has fallen out of favor). However, this is a relatively minor point and doesn't diminish from an excellent book which really deserves to be better recognized.

    The uniqueness of this work makes it very easy for me to assign it my top score of 5.5/5.0 ("110%").

    Note: There's no chapter list as the book is organized more in a flowing novel style than in the typical chronological or subject based styles that autistic memoirs tend to come in.
     
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