Recently I read Kathryn Erskine’s book Mockingbird, which is told from the perspective of a 10-year-old Aspie girl named Caitlin. I still haven’t figured out how I feel about that book. I’m always excited (and a little anxious) when I see a book featuring an autistic character, especially a girl. But like I said, I don’t know how I feel about that one. There were certainly moments where I thought, “Yes! That’s exactly how it is!” but . . . well, I’ll let you be the judge. It’s worth a read, though I warn you it is emotionally exhausting (she recently lost her brother in a school shooting).
When I was reading a few reviews of Mockingbird, hoping they would help me process my own thoughts and feelings, I saw something about another book, M is for Autism. This book was written by a group of autistic girls and their creative writing tutor, because there aren’t enough books for teenage girls with autism. That fact right there made me love the book even before I opened it. When I did open it, I was surprised to see that it is full of color – not just the illustrations, but the pages themselves. I LOVE that. In fact, there’s a lot I love about this book.
Things I love about this book:
- It’s colorful! Every page has color.
- M is a believable autistic character. She has autistic traits without fulfilling EVERY stereotype, and has specific, unique quirks and interests.
- I was pleasantly surprised that the mother gets to narrate a few pages. I appreciated getting to hear her perspective, and it is very realistic – a mother who truly loves and wants to help her daughter, but just gets so darn frustrated and doesn’t always understand her.
- Her therapist is wonderful. I wish I had her.
- “It’s not an illness. It’s more a way of being. It’s your wonderful state of mind, the way you view the world. That’s not being ill.”
- It emphasizes that autism isn’t really the problem, anxiety is.
- It touches on topics like social confusion, teasing, stimming, coping strategies, sensory issues, diagnosis, labels, therapy, support, and the complexity of it all.
- This quote:
“I think you’re struggling too much. Everyone has a bad day, week, month even year but this is too much M. This is constant stress and anxiety. Life shouldn’t be too much of a struggle M.”
She’s right. Less of a struggle would be good. Life is a struggle when you’re trying to be normal.
The book made me smile, but it also made me hurt for my own 13-year-old self.
My only complaint is that it’s short – you can read it in a single sitting. That isn’t a criticism of the book; I think it is long enough to fulfill its purpose. That’s just a personal desire to read more about M and her journey 🙂
If you’d like to learn more about the writing of the book, here’s an article: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/health/what-is-it-like-to-be-a-girl-with-autism/
After writing this, I think I’ve figured out one of my thoughts about Mockingbird. Mockingbird feels like it was written by an NT for NTs – to help them better understand autistic kids, sure, but it’s for NTs. M is for Autism is absolutely 100% for autistic girls. It can help NTs better understand autistic kids, but that is for the sake of the autistic kids.
Great post, can’t wait to read this and recommend it to my autistic sister. You are spot on about there being a distinction between books written about those with autism and for those with autism.
Thank you! I hope she enjoys it, too 🙂
Pingback: Mini-Review: M in the Middle | Walking Inland