5 new books reviewed

Adam Feinstein reviews the books in yesterday’s Guardian.

Send in the Idiots, or How We Grew to Understand the World
by Kamran Nazeer
230pp, Bloomsbury, £12.99

Autism Diva’s post about a radio interview with Nazeer provoked an interesting discussion on her blog about Nazeer and his book.

The Jumbled Jigsaw: An Insider’s Approach to the Treatment of Autistic Spectrum ‘Fruit Salads’
by Donna Williams
392pp, Jessica Kingsley Publishers, £14.99

Daniel Isn’t Talking
by Marti Leimbach
281pp, Fourth Estate, £10.99

Eye Contact
by Cammie McGovern
292pp, Viking, £12.99

Born on a Blue Day: A Memoir of Asperger’s and an Extraordinary Mind
by Daniel Tammet
242pp, Hodder and Stoughton, £16.99

I have only read one of them and would be interested in other people’s opinions of all these books. With so much being written about autism these days it is difficult to keep up. a lot of books do not seem to add anything new to our understanding and it is easy to miss the ones that do. A recent exchange on Ballastexistenz quite rightly points to the need for a book ( or books?)

by an autie about autistic people that’s actually political, informed by at least something like disability politics and the like, rather than this long string of autiebiographies, self-help manuals, self-dissections, poetry (usually poetry that would never have been published if the person were not known to be autistic), and medicalistic textbooks.

The book I have read, Born on a Blue Day, is an autiebiography that does add a lot to my understanding. Apart from being a tale of synaesthesia from the inside it contains some fascinating social comment on the changing attitudes to disability. For example when Daniel’s grandfather started having epileptic siezures just after the end of the 1939-45 world war his grandmother was advised to divorce him and remarry. She followed the doctors’ advice and Daniel’s grandfather was committed to an institution for ex-soldiers with mental health problems.

Daniel Tammet was the subject of a TV documentary in the UK, Brainman and he describes the background pressures that helped to shape the film.
This passage about his meeting with Kim Peek gives the lie to the myth that autistic people are somehow more emotionally impaired than the rest of us.

I had been moved by the enthusiasm with which he and his father had welcomed me and with which they had openly and candidly shered their story. Kim’s special gift is not only his brain, but also his heart, his humanity, his ability to touch the lives of others in a truly unique way. Meeting Kim Peekwas one of the happiest moments of my life.

I like this book. It is easy reading but provokes hard thinking.

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