Tuesday, September 30, 2008

[Book Review] LOOK ME IN THE EYE by John Elder Robison


Andrea Bledsoe reviews LOOK ME IN THE EYE: MY LIFE WITH ASPERGER'S by John Elder Robison (Crown Publishers, 2007)

Recently, I have begun reading a lot more nonfiction, or memoirs to be exact. Earlier this month, I finished reading all of Augusten Burroughs’ books, which I will review at a later time. I noticed in two of the books that he mentions a brother who has a form of autism. After a little bit of research, I found out his brother is another bestselling author, John Elder Robison.

And here we are now.

John Elder did not have an easy childhood in the 1960s. It’s hard enough for children to make friends when they are considered "normal," but when teachers, psychologists, or any other authority has deemed the child to have some "abnormality," it’s that much harder, I’m sure. John Elder struggled to make friends in kindergarten, but, when the kids rejected him, he immediately withdrew socially and had a better time with his toys and other inanimate objects.

For every sad memory John recalls, there are laugh-out-loud funny moments, too. When John was eight, his mother gave birth to another son. His recollections of the tricks and pranks he pulled on Christopher (who later changed to his name to Augusten) are just hilarious. Although John was brilliant, his grades did not reflect this, so he dropped out at sixteen. He started touring with rock and roll bands as the sound technician. He met the members of KISS in the late 1970s and even designed the smoking guitar Ace Frehley is famous for playing. Growing disinterested in the rock scene, John later became an engineer for Milton Bradley, which enabled him to play more practical jokes on people. Eventually, John's lack of emotion, antisocial personality, and robot-like behavior were diagnosed as Asperger’s Syndrome. This diagnosis enabled him to understand himself better.

John Elder Robison is a brilliant storyteller who deserves compassion for his struggles with Asperger's, but, at the same time, he will have his readers laughing out loud at his pranks.

Andrea Bledsoe, Poplar-White Station Library

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