Today is one of the rare moments when I attempt to review a work of non-fiction, which I find so much more difficult that reviewing fiction. But The Reason I Jump is such an incredibly important book, and one that thoroughly deserves being shouted about. I hope I can do it justice.
Written by Naoki Higashida when he was only thirteen, this remarkable book provides a rare insight into the often baffling behaviour of autistic children. Using a question and answer format, Naoki explains things like why he talks loudly or repeats the same questions, what causes him to have panic attacks, and why he likes to jump. He also shows the way he thinks and feels about his world – other people, nature, time and beauty, and himself. Abundantly proving that people with autism do possess imagination, humour and empathy, he also makes clear how badly they need our compassion, patience and understanding.
David Mitchell and his wife have translated Naoki’s book so that it might help others dealing with autism and generally illuminate a little-understood condition. It gives us an exceptional chance to enter the mind of another and see the world from a strange and fascinating perspective.
The book also features eleven original illustrations, inspired by Naoki’s words, by the artistic duo Kai and Sunny.
To think that this book was written by Naoki when he was just thirteen years old is nothing short of astounding. Using a deceptively simple question and answer structure of “Why do you…” style questions, Naoki explains what drives his behaviour and the things he says and does. Each answer covers 1 to 2 pages, and through this method, Naoki is able to explain some of the behaviours that those around him may find baffling or confusing.
I found it to be incredibly illuminating. As David Mitchell points out in his introduction, much of the literature on autism is written by the doctors studying it or by the parents of autistic children. Whilst these are both valuable perspectives, I think that to have an autistic child share their own point of view is something quite different, and I expect that The Reason I Jump could provide significant insight for those with (or working with) autistic children.
It’s hard to know what to expect (beyond the obvious) in reading a book such as this, but I found it to be a surprisingly emotional read as Naoki explains some of the things he does, and why certain situations may upset him. And I was particularly impressed by the repeated request for tolerance, patience, and understanding throughout its pages, not just for him, but for all of those with autism.
basically, my feelings are pretty much the same as yours
Tolerance and compassion don’t really seem so much to ask for, do they?
The Reason I Jump is a short yet powerful book that debunks some of the myths around autism, and attempts to explain the behaviour of those with autism from an insider’s perspective. I think that it’s an incredibly important read, and one that I recommend to all.
Naoki Higashida has written a second book about his experiences with autism as a young adult, and Fall Down Seven Times, Get Up Eight has also been translated into English by K. A. Yoshida and David Mitchell.