Hardcover | 192 pages
The cover of this book first caught my eye when I was in the bookshop earlier. It is a beautiful hardcover edition of the book, with a clear, well designed cover in shades of blue and white; butterflies in the pattern of a flower, reminding me somewhat of the tesselation patterns my class made in primary school, only more stylish.
Then I saw the Japanese name on the cover. I have a thing for books written by Japanese, and those translated into English from Japanese.
For some reason I completely ignored the tagline of the book, and a quick read of the blurb on the back confused me at first – it being a quote from the best-selling author of Cloud Atlas, David Mitchell. So I read the blurb on the inside cover, and all was revealed.
The Reason I Jump, as the ignored tagline explains, is a book about “one boy’s voice from the silence of autism”. It was written by then 13 year old autistic Japanese boy, Naoki Higashida to explain to others how his autism works.
David Mitchell and his wife read the book in Japanese when they learned their young son had autism and found it so insightful that they had it translated into English for others to read. Which explains why he wrote the introduction and is quoted on the cover!
The book was certainly an eyeopener for me. As a teacher I encountered autism in various forms during my brief time in the classroom, and was even given a leaflet written by an autistic pupil explaining their autism so that I could prepare for it. This book is like an extended version of that leaflet and though I have no formal training or any real active experience with autistic children, I found this to be facinating and very, very helpful.
Naoki explains his autism and what he thinks it means and why he acts certain ways through a series of ‘frequently asked questions’ like “Why do people with autism often cup their ears?” and “Is it true that you hate being touched?”. He also calls into question what is generally believed about autism; that those with autism are out of sync with emotions and prefer to be alone. As David Mitchell susstictly sums up in his introduction to the book, “emotional poverty and an aversion to company are not symptoms of autism but consequences of autism” and are caused by the autistic child being unable to communicate with the world properly and the world misreading what is communicated. Certainly we know that autism affects individuals differently so it cannot be a blanket statement, but in Naoki’s case he shows a longing for company and an awareness of feeling that goes against such belief in that by symptomatic of autism.
Naoki has a way with words, even at such a young age and despite his difficulty in communicating. He uses various ways to get his words across, including a cardboard keyboard and has created a beautiful book, answering many questions with refreshing honesty, hope and a sincere wish for all autistic people to be understood and appreciated. Between his insightful links to the autistic person’s mindset, he includes short stories he has heard, or experiences of his (such as his trip to Kamakura – something I can relate to having been there myself) and each one is well thought out and breaks the questioning quite nicely.
Near the end of the book, Naoki tells the heartbreaking tale of Shun, which I shall not spoil, but certainly had me reaching for tissues.
Overall this was a beautiful book which has got me thinking about autism in a different way and I will not hestitate to recommend this to anyone who has encountered autism. It is a real eye-opener and written by such a bright young writer.
If you want to buy a copy, there is a link in the Cabbit Corner store, or follow this link here. It is available in Harcover and also on Kindle.