The Reason I Jump

Naoki Higashida

Let’s get it out of the way: This is a book about autism. And its author, Naoki Higashida is autistic himself. Therefore, he is in a unique position to explain what this means. The book takes the form of a Q&A, where he answers 58 questions by “normal” people. Some of the questions are, for example: “Why do people with autism talk so loudly and weirdly”, “Is it true that you hate being touched”, or “Why do you line up your toy cars and blocks?” Some of the questions are more about his personal quirks, and to others he doesn’t have an answer, like “Why are your sleep patterns all messed up?”

I’m not really sure what to make of this book. Yes, it’s a fascinating first-hand account of somebody living on the spectrum who tries to explain what that actually means. He does so with deep insight into his own condition (which is to be expected), and with a surprising eloquence at times.

And it’s exactly this eloquence that makes me pause. Not because of his autism – I’m no MD, so I can’t evaluate how or if this would affect his intelligence – but because, allegedly, he wrote this book when he was only 13 years old. Granted, I don’t have experience with 13-year-olds and the chapters are very short, sometimes just a page or so. Yet, I somehow have the impression that there has been a lot of editing for the original publication and potentially again for the translation. The final short story that is included in the book is more in line what I see as the writing capabilities of a boy in his early teens.

Naoki Higashida was born in 1992 and diagnosed with autism as a child. Unable to speak at the time, he wrote this book (first published in 2007) using an alphabet grid. Since then, he has published both fiction and non-fiction and works on raising awareness of autism throughout Japan.

Despite my reservations, this book provides an interesting – and much needed – glimpse behind the emotional walls of an autistic child. Get it from amazon.

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