The Autism Autobiography is a growing subgenre (if one is allowed to call it such), one filled with adventure and peril and humorous anecdotes and a fair dose of information [and other marketing buzzwords]. From John Elder Robinson’s memoirs of building cars and guitar-designing for KISS to Ido Kedar’s progression from a student in severally restricted special education classes that did not meet his intellectual needs to an honors student in high school, people on the spectrum have written and are writing about their lives, often both chaotic and rewarding, and have aimed and are aiming to give readers some insight into what it is for an individual to be autistic.
Asperger’s On The Inside by Michelle Vines is a fairly recent addition to this class of books (published April 8th, 2016), and I dare say that it is a welcome addition.
The book has a lot of charm. It’s question-and-answer format, in which Michelle poses a question about her life as a schoolgirl, as an engineer, as a wife, a mother, a friend, an Australian navigating the United States, and a freelancer or about Asperger’s and then proceeds to answer it, and it’s personality-heavy narration give the reader the impression that they are having a private discussion with Michelle in a quiet and cozy coffee shop (one with ideal sensory outputs). She makes note of her narrative quirks and embraces them, at one point poking fun at how she starts the chapter about relationships (Chapter 8 ) stating that she doesn’t have much to say on the topic…and then proceeds to spend 10 paragraphs talking about relationships. She takes herself seriously enough to believe that what she is saying has merit but not so seriously as to not allow for light-heartedness or the admission that her own experiences do not apply to everyone. Her writing style is laid-back and casual, but not at all lazy. She mentions her having Asperger’s a lot, which may come across as needlessly repetitive to some, but then, duh, it’s a book about Asperger’s written by someone with Asperger’s. Her train of narrative thought does jump around a bit at times, sometimes straying to talk about loosely related topics: this did not bother me, personally, because my own thought process is rather jumpy (as you can probably tell from this blog), but some may find it a bit erratic. I can assure you, though, that if you follow those loose threads, they will be woven together eventually into something cohesive and, at least in my opinion, actually pretty enjoyable.
There’s something almost Ellen DeGeneres-like about her friendly and almost whimsical approach to her story.
It’s also a pretty informative, but not exactly in the same way as Tony Attwood’s The Complete Guide To Asperger Syndrome. She delays giving the obligatory DSM layout of Asperger’s until Chapter 35 (the chapters are pretty short, though, so the book isn’t as unbearably long as this may make it seem), and while she does cover all the basics, such as “Hyperfocus” (Chapter 7) and ”Sensory Overstimulation” (Chapter 15), she also focuses on more personal, less textbook-esque matters as “AS On Fashion And Shopping” (Chapter 11) and “Acting the NT Part And Feeling ‘Fake’” (Chapter 47). She spends a good bit of space talking about her Asperger’s in relation to her femaleness, using a brilliant example with conversations about couches (Chapter 29, which is one of my favorite chapters in the entire book) to further this point. As a fellow female spectrumite, I found this affirming and refreshing. She explains her difficulties with the workforce over several chapters and eventually explains how her own approach–not a typical one, perhaps, but a necessary one–allows her to be happier and healthier overall.
And then there’s the public service announcement about the Xing in Chapter 53. Heed that chapter particularly well.
In conclusion, if you’re looking for a clinical guidebook to Asperger’s, this is probably not the book that you’d want to use; if you’re looking for a book about one specific woman trying to explain how Asperger’s influences her own life, if you’re looking for a story of one particular female trying to find her place in the gender-sharpened world around her, if you’re looking for something to make you smile and occasionally stare into space and contemplate society and life, then I say that this is something worth reading. It’s a cute book that has a lot of important messages to share.
[P.S. There are a few chapters that discuss an individual named “Paula.” I don’t even know if that is the woman’s real name–names were changed for privacy and whatnot–but if it is, I absolutely promise you that I am not that individual. Though she does seem to be a welcome edition to the collection of Paula’s. ]