I’ll start by saying that this is truly an exceptional book, so much so that by the time I had finished reading the introduction, I felt that this book was on the path for my perfect 6.0 rating, and by the time I had gone through the first chapter, barring any hiccups, I knew that this book was a work that is truly transformative – both in what it can bring to autistic persons, but also in helping redefine the field of writing on autism.
Like many of us on the spectrum, Price got to reading people and situations so much that it lead them into the field of psychology, where he obtained his PhD, but it was only after doing so that a family member mentioned the spectrum, which lead them into a deep dive into the topic.
What makes this book particularly powerful is that it is beautifully written, pairing heartfelt memoir and significant vulnerability in revisiting their past along with stories and anecdotes of other autistic persons with a survey of many key academic research over the past decade to provide a contemporary take on autism and the many challenges faced by individuals on the spectrum. It is also the first academic work that I'm aware of to significantly depart from the medical model and to dive into the social model of disability.
Each chapter could be read on its own as a well formed essay with introduction, body, and summary / conclusion (some also have exercises for the readers to complete), but the chapters also flow together.
The book is also one of the few to consider intersectionalities, and when I saw a mention of gender non-conformity very early on (Price also goes over and compares the process of demasking to coming out of the closet for 2SLGBTQ+ persons), I was encouraged because while there are many double rainbow (autistic 2SLGBTQ+) persons, and many are active on social media, there are few books written from such perspectives, and the author takes care to highlight some of the additional barriers to diagnosis, daily living, and acceptance faced by those with intersectionalities.
Something that I also appreciated was a critical view of existing literature – including calling out on oft-cited studies that suggest that autistic underemployment is at 85% (he notes that higher quality cross-sectional research puts it closer to 40%) and that parents of Autistic children had an 80% divorce rate (simply not true and ridiculous).
The chapter list provided above gives you a glimpse of the topics that are covered.
Of note, the author’s journey included extensive review of autism as it’s presented by autists in social media, including Youtube, TikTok, blogs, and other formats. This is rather different from my own journey, which was mostly blogs, forums, and books, but highlights the importance of the many different mediums that information is now disseminated from and that there is no one-size-fits-all.
The overarching objective is to help autistic persons unmask, and live life more as and for themselves than for the sake of others, and I think that for any adult and youth on the spectrum, that this is a must-have for any personal library and to review again now and then with its exercises. Price does acknowledge that not everyone will be able to fully unmask and that for some, it may be unsafe, but this is a raison d’etre for those of us who can, to advocate for changes that bring about a better world, not just for the neurodiverse community, but all people.
I'll close my review with a quote from the conclusion:
Devon Price said:
“To unmask is to lay bare a proud face of noncompliance, to refuse to buckle under the weight of neurotypical demands. It’s an act of bold activism as well as a declaration of self-worth. To unmask is to refuse to be silenced, to stop being compartmentalized and hidden away, and to stand powerfully in our wholeness alongside other disabled and marginalized folks. Together we can stand strong and free, shielded by the powerful, radical acceptance that comes only when we know who we are, and with the recognition that we never had anything to hide."
Score: 6.0/6.0, with commendation