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.