Autism blogger Amanda Baggs compares those of us who use language to dwellers on a high cliff which all other, such as those with autism, are expected to ascend. Her point is that, though the cliffs and mountains are both interesting and worthwhile places in which to live, few of us cliff-dweller deign to into the valley. Luckily, through the use of facilitated communication and technology, many of those with autism are learning to scale the cliffs to interpret their world for us in their own language.
Within the past few years several books have appeared that provide a starting point for giving writers with autism a voice. The following four might be a starting point for interested readers.
A Doorknob for an Eye (D. J. Savarse). D. J. Savarese was the first autistic student to graduate from Oberlin College. In this small book of ekphrastic poems Savarese looks at artwork by autistic arts with an insight that only someone who experienced autism from the inside out could write. The book is published by poet Chris Martin and Unlimited Editions, which promotes the work of autistic poets.
Hoshi and the Red City Circuit (Dora Raymaker). Raymaker brings her own experiences as a writer with autism to bear in a cyperpunk mystery novel in which the narrator inhabits a world that relies on the technical expertise and non-verbal communication skills of people with autism while at the same time relegating them to a position of quasi-citizens. Her ability to convey the inner-workings of her narrators mind is a tour-de-force.
See it Feelingly (Ralph Savarese). If the name is familiar, it is because Ralph Savarese is D.J.’s father and a long time educator, researcher and autism advocate, though not on the spectrum himself. Savarese’s thesis in this book is that people with autism are capable of reading and engaging with classic American novels. The core of the book consists of interviews with autistic readers including Raymaker, Tito Mukhopadhyay and Temple Grandin.
Autism in a Decentered World (Alice Wexler). Wexler is a neurotypical writer and much of the first part of the book is based on the theories of philosophers and neurobiologists, but she also tries to give equal time to autistic writers and artists and arguing for the notion of difference as one of parity and mutual respect between those on the cliffs and those in the valleys.
In contrast to these four writers whose work is not always available in main chain bookstores, Grandin and Mukhopadhyay have several books that are much easy to find. Raymaker’s book will be available at the Disability Literature Consortium Booth at the AWP book fair in Portland, Oregon later this month. She will also be taking part in the consortium’s off site reading on Thursday, March 28. (See Feb. 20 post for details).