Book Review: The Reason I Jump by Naoki Higashida
by Naoki Higashida
Translated by K.A. Yoshida, David Mitchell
Random House, 2013
I would not have read this book were it not for Jon Stewart. His endorsement catapulted this book up the bestsellers list and brought it to the attention of thousands of people, including me. I’m not the parent of an autistic child, but I have friends with autistic children, so I wanted to see what insights the book might give me. I wanted to see if the book could guide me in establishing and maintaining positive relationships with those children.
No other book like this one exists anywhere: An autistic Japanese teenager created the first draft one letter at a time on an alphabet letter board. K.A. Yoshida translated the work into English, and then David Mitchell took it a step further and gave the language a colloquial tone.
The book is structured in a question and answer format, with the author’s charming and illuminating short stories interspersed throughout. The author answers questions often asked of people with autism. “Why do people with autism talk so loudly and weirdly?” “Why don’t you make eye contact when you’re talking?” “Do you prefer to be on your own?” The clear, conversational answers give us insight into the personality behind the autism—the person we need to trust to be there even when language difficulties and behavioural issues get in the way of comfortable interactions.
The series of translations—from autistic thought, to Japanese letters, to plain English, to everyday (slangy?) English—creates an uneasy result. Each pass through a different filter shapes the work until what comes out the other end feels a little too filtered. The book would have had a more authentic feel and would have been even more powerful with less processing.
I hope the book gives parents and siblings of autistic children the inner strength they need to persevere in difficult circumstances. I hope the book leads others to treat people with autism with patience and compassion.
Set aside the processing and look to the heart of the story.
Posted on November 13, 2013, in Autobiography, Book reviews, Books I borrowed, Random House and tagged autism, autistic children, David Mitchell, Jon Stewart, Naoki Higashida, Random House. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.