#BookReview: The Beauty Of Rain by Jamie Beck

Beck’s Most Powerful Book To Date. Somewhat surprisingly, I seem to either own and/ or have read every single book Beck has put out to date – and I think there’s only four (the Cabot trilogy + In The Cards) that I haven’t actually read yet. So I can absolutely speak with a degree of authority on that title here in particular. With her move towards women’s fiction over the last few years, after spending her earlier career in romance novels, Beck has seemingly been working to exactly what she pulled off here – a balls to the wall, full out emotional rollercoaster that has the sheer power of the best coasters around, even Universal Orlando’s Velocicoaster (my personal standard for most powerful coaster online today).

To be clear, those struggling with suicidal ideation should absolutely steer clear of this book, as that subject plays a substantial and substantially heavy role in this tale – and which Beck herself makes clear in a forward to the book.

Also, this book is nearly black hole heavy, with a few jokes and other lighter moments thrown in, but the emotional weight of all that has happened before this book and is happening during this book truly is some *heavy* stuff – and indeed that is one of the things that makes this book so great. Because even while it is indeed so heavy, it never feels oppressive or hopeless. Quite the opposite – Beck does a tremendous job of showing the hope even in the depths of such tragedy and misfortune.

Overall, if you’re looking for something more light and fluffy, go with one of Beck’s earlier books. But if you’re ready to see some hope even in some of the darkest times that normal people do in fact experience… maybe you’re ready for this book. Very much recommended.

P.S.: While this book does in fact mention COVID, it is in the period before the events of this book, and while the events that play out in that period are significant here – COVID never really is, thus I did *not* deduct a star there.

Also, the struggles of parents of Autistic children is a major storyline in this book, and for my fellow Autistics as well as our parents, I want to point out just how *real* that story does in fact play out. Yes, at times it seems like Beck may be following that agency that claims to “Speak” for Autism (yet is actually the Autistic community’s KKK, according to many of us) and their “hopeless” commercial (one of the things we hate so much about them), but I need to stress here that there is no mention of that organization or even that idea. There is no child endangerment or abuse here. No so-called “Applied Behavioral Analysis” that so many of us in the community consider to be active child abuse. Certainly no filicide that is all too rampant among far too many parents. Instead, Beck shows a very real view of a parent just trying to do her best for her Autistic child. And indeed, even when looking for positive, Autistic Adult created and/ or inspired resources for parents, *even as someone who was once plugged into various Autism advocacy networks*… it was shockingly difficult to find something so basic “Here’s some resources if you think your child may have Autism” from the more respected organizations. And y’all… that’s on us. We need to create those resources to help these exact types of parents and prevent them from becoming the parents who actively harm their children.

But again: Unless you’re struggling with suicidal ideation… read this book. It really is Beck’s Most Powerful Book To Date.

This review of The Beauty Of Rain by Jamie Beck was originally written on July 10, 2023.

#BookReview: I Will Die On This Hill by Meghan Ashburn and Jules Edwards

Racism And Misandry Deeply Mar Otherwise Interesting Concept. The idea behind this book – that a neurotypical Autism Mom and an #ActuallyAutistic mom of Autistic kids get together and have a constructive discussion – is fascinating because of how rarely Autism Moms in particular are willing to bridge that gap. And to be clear, there is a lot of good information here, and in the notes at the end of each chapter, two books I’ve previously reviewed – Eric Garcia’s We’re Not Broken and Steven Silberman’s Neurotribes – are both recommended. Unfortunately the good information is deeply marred by the authors’ misandry and racism against anything white and/ or male – even while male Autistics! Indeed, in naming all kinds of other autism advocacy organizations, the authors fail to mention one of the biggest and most successful in the US – the Autism Self Advocacy Network. And in marginalizing and delegitimizing both the successes and the struggles of white and/ or male Autistics, the author actively denigrate the admittedly largest section of known or even suspected Autistics. All while claiming to try to “bridge the gap” in speaking about Autism from both Autistic and neurotypical perspectives. Ultimately your own view of this book will come down to how much you agree with the authors’ own blatant bigotries. Though again, there are at least some discussions here genuinely worthy of wading through their mire to see and examine. Indeed, just enough to elevate them to more than the few flakes here or there of my dreaded “gold mine” status – though only just. Two stars deducted for racism and sexism, and the third star is deducted for the lack of intellectual rigor in having a bibliography that even accounting for the recommended resources sections at the end of each chapter still barely accounts for 10% or so of the text (just 4% at the end of the overall narrative where the bibliography is normally found), which is about half to one third of the more standard bibliography of better documented texts in my extensive experience with even months-early advance reader copies. Recommended, if barely.

This review of I Will Die On This Hill by Meghan Ashburn and Jules Edwards was originally written on July 3, 2022.

#BlogTour: A Family Affair by Robyn Carr

For this blog tour, we’re looking at an otherwise strong family drama marred by COVID references and bigotry. For this blog tour, we’re looking at A Family Affair by Robyn Carr.

Bigotry And COVID Mar Otherwise Strong Family Drama. On its whole, this is a mostly solid family drama about a mom and two of her three children dealing with a tragedy and trying to move on with their lives in the wake of it.

However, it does have significant problems, problems I’ve yet to see any of the other 44 Goodreads reviews in existence at the time of this writing address.

The first is the near-constant references to the insanities of 2020-2022, mostly as a way to ground the story in a sense of time and place. But here’s the thing: I DO NOT WANT TO READ ABOUT COVID. PERIOD. And thus a star was deducted for this. Maybe you, the reader of my review, are less adamant about this or maybe you even appreciate such references. Good for you, you’ll enjoy those parts of this text. But for those who feel as I do on the matter, know that it happens here.

The second major issue is the portrayal and handling of the Autistic third child. To say that this is a highly bigoted view along the lines constantly spewed by the Autistic hate group Autism Speaks is still being a bit too polite, to this Autistic’s mind. This character is every tired and worn out Autistic stereotype rolled into one, and while the family claims to love her, they also drug her into oblivion so that Carr can write her out of the back half of the book. Indeed, if an author treated pretty well any demographic other than the neurodiverse/ Autistics like this in a book, that author would likely go viral for social media cancelling them – and yet something tells me most will be silent about or even praise Carr’s reprehensible treatment of this character. That it publishes just days after World Autism Acceptance Day and during World Autism Acceptance Month is a slap in the face to Autistics from the publisher, but perhaps they were not aware of just how offensive this characterization truly is and were not aware of April being so designated.

The third issue, a throwaway line that further reveals Carr’s political leanings, is a reference to a school shooting where the shooter got “automatic weapons” from his dad’s garage. In California. In the 2000s. BULLCRAP! For one, while *some* automatic weapons *are* legal, the manner in which they are legal is INCREDIBLY expensive to obtain and subjects one to an entire alphabet soup of agencies – both Federal and State, particularly in California – knowing exactly where and how you store such weapons. Further, in the *extremely* rare case of Columbine/ Parkland style attacks as is described in this part of the text, such truly automatic weapons are virtually *never* used. But someone who only follows certain paranoid propagandists on this matter would have no clue about these facts, and Carr reveals herself to be just such a person in this instance. However, this did *not* result in a third star deduction as this was more of a one-off throwaway backstory line and not a pervasive element within the book as the first two issues were.

Ultimately, this is one of those books where your mileage may vary quite a bit. If you don’t mind references to COVID in your fiction and if you agree with Carr’s views on Autism and guns, you likely will enjoy this book quite a bit. And to be clear, other than these issues – which were *not* on every page – the story itself really is quite good. But if you feel as I do on these issues… still read the book. It really is that well written, mostly. Just know there is going to be some infuriating moments. Recommended.

After the jump, an excerpt from the book followed by the “publisher details” – book description, author bio, and social and buy links.
Continue reading “#BlogTour: A Family Affair by Robyn Carr”

Featured New Release Of The Week: The Spectrum Chick Trilogy by Janey Klunder

This week we’re looking at a book truly near and dear to my own heart. This week we’re looking at The Spectrum Chick Trilogy by Janey Klunder.

Now, I don’t actually have a Goodreads review to post of this book – even though I’ve read every word of all three Spectrum Chick books.

You see, the story of this book’s existence is that long ago, I started on Facebook what I wanted to become an Autistic advocacy organization that had Autistics helping fellow Autistics. Not in pursuing government “services” or in spewing propaganda, but simply members of our community doing what we could to help other members of our community. We would also be able to use our own voices to share our own experiences directly with the larger world and hopefully destroy the “veil” that exists between the larger world’s understanding of Autism and how we Autistics actually think about it ourselves. Thus, because I sometimes lack any degree of creativity, it was called “Autism Through Our Eyes”.

During the course of that short-lived project, a young Scottish lass reached out to me. She was trying to write a book, but she couldn’t figure out how to get it published. It was semi-autobiographical in that while completely fiction, it was also to some degree based on her actual real life and her struggles both before and after the fateful day when she first heard the term “Asperger’s”. This was 2014, the lass in question was named Janey Klunder, and the book in question was one she was calling The Spectrum Chick.

Even at that point in my life, I had read a LOT of books and was already doing *some* proofreading level Advance Reader Copy reading for one other author. I also knew that if it involved code or similar computer constructs, I could largely figure it out. So I told Janey that I would help her out. I couldn’t guarantee anything, but I would read her book and help her edit it as well as I could, and I could help her get it online through Kindle Direct Publishing.

We’ve been on one hell of a ride ever since, releasing four more books between 2014 and 2022 – The Spectrum Chick II, Led By Example, The Spectrum Chick III, and last December’s In An Office. And now, this combined edition of all three The Spectrum Chick books. I was working on this particular edition primarily on April 2, World Autism Acceptance Day, and got it fully on Amazon, Goodreads, and Bookbub over the last couple of days.

If you’ve read this far, I really hope you’ll give this book a chance, and if you like the tale of Tigerlily, maybe you’ll leave us some reviews on both the original books’ pages and this combined edition’s. Maybe you’ll even read Janey’s other books and hopefully review them, if you’re so inclined. Janey truly is a great storyteller, particularly for the stories she chooses to tell, and she really does bring Autism to life through her own eyes quite well. She and I have largely divergent experiences with Autism, but hers is a much more commonly known – though I would say still quite misunderstood – version of the Autistic Experience, and Tiger Lily’s story reflects this.

Thank you for reading these nearly 600 words. Below the jump, the Book Description for this new The Spectrum Chick Trilogy edition, which encompasses all three of the prior The Spectrum Chick book descriptions. 🙂
Continue reading “Featured New Release Of The Week: The Spectrum Chick Trilogy by Janey Klunder”

#BookReview: Unmasking Autism

More Progressive Self-Help/ Indoctrination Reinforcement Than Scientific Explanation. If you’re an Autistic of a “Progressive” bent that hates anything white and/ or anything male, this is a great self help book that won’t challenge you at all and may help explain a few things. If you care about scientific objectivity and/ or are not Autistic yourself and/ or are *not* a racist misandrist… eh, there’s still a bit to be gleamed, but you’re going to have to put up with a *lot* of racist misandrist anti-science drivel to get to it.

Which is highly disappointing. The description speaks more to this book speaking about the *entire* Autism Experience, and yet the author makes clear that they are such a racist misandrist that they actively deny that it is even possible for white and/ or male Autistics to have just as many struggles with masking as any of the other intersectional minorities the author clearly prefers.

Further, while the documentation is *near* normal at about 20% of the overall text, it is still on the low side, particularly relative to actively ignoring such a large part of the Autism Experience. (Normal range for documentation in my thousands-of-ARCs-in-5-years experience is 20-33% or so, and particularly well documented books – generally with less controversial and more holistic narratives – can get upwards of 40%.)

Overall a highly disappointing book that still offers a few points worthy of general discussion, and which certain segments of the population may like more than others. Recommended.

This review of Unmasking Autism by Devon Price was originally written on March 11, 2022.

Featured New Release Of The Week: In An Office by Janey Klunder

This week, for the first time since I began this book blog, we’re looking at a book that I actually had a hand in bringing forth. This week we’re looking at In An Office by Janey Klunder.

I met Janey nearly a decade ago when I was working a project I called Autism Through Our Eyes – a project that lives on in the name I use when publishing Janey’s books, Autism Through Our Eyes Publishing. This is the fifth book we’ve published together, with Janey writing them and doing most of her own marketing, and me helping with getting them actually into Amazon (sometimes even in print form), including actually writing the official description of the book, and doing at least some marketing/ publicity myself.

And this was the first book where I actually included a Publisher’s Note at the end, pointing out just how real this book is for so very many Autistics and providing a “Recommended Reading” section of a few books I’ve reviewed on this very site regarding Autism from a more nonfiction perspective, including Neurotribes by Steven Silberman, We’re Not Broken by Eric Garcia, On The Spectrum by Daniel Bowman Jr, and The Pattern Seekers by Simon Baron-Cohen.

So with all of this noted up front, here’s the review that I put on Goodreads:

Intriguing Ideas. This is a book that explores a couple of ideas unlike any I’ve ever seen before – and this was book number 256 in 2021 alone for me. Specifically, the idea of community members simply helping each other, rather than having to have some formal, government “approved”, structure for doing so.

In one case here, we see a caring member of the community help an Autistic understand the world around her and figure out her place within it. And yes, while the exact scenario here can feel limiting, and one could want this character to want more for her life… as the Publisher’s Note says at the end, this is an all too real and all too common scenario for so many Autistics, and it is refreshing to see it portrayed so well and with such care in fiction. (Possibly not hurt by the fact that the author herself is Autistic.)

In the other case here, when the owners of a Bed and Breakfast suddenly and tragically die in a fire, their son comes up with an “insane idea” to redirect the facility in a new and interesting way… that ultimately helps its community in ways that no government program ever really could. The author never knew this (until she sees this review), but other than the specific focus on LGBTQ+ people, this is actually eerily similar to an idea I myself had in my teens about how a then-friend and I could eventually help our own community. (Note: This never actually came to pass, for a variety of reasons, but I’m glad to see the idea being independently revived in fiction.)

Overall truly a powerful work for the ideas it introduces to the zeitgeist, a powerful exposition of the lives of so many Autistics, and a solid story even without these particular things. Very much recommended.

(Disclosure: While I had no part in actually writing the narrative of this book, I did assist the author in getting it into KDP and Autism Through Our Eyes Publishing, the publisher of this book, is my own project.)

And because I can, here’s an excerpt from the book – Chapter 1, to be precise. 🙂

No one within a half-mile radius would ever forget the night of the fire. It hadn’t spread to any of the surrounding buildings – as it turned out, it had only been contained to one part of the house – but still, almost everyone in the street had been woken by the fire engines. Many of the elderly residents had stood in the road in their dressing gowns in the warm August weather, fretting: Where were Miriam and Angus? Had they made it out in time? They had been running the popular B&B for decades now without any issues. There was only a small amount of smoke visible from the street; no burning heat could be felt from where they stood. And Miriam was a larger-than-life personality, loved by everyone… Nothing could take her down. Right?

Soon Miriam and Angus were taken away on stretchers. Sent to the hospital. They weren’t moving. But surely they’d be all right?

When a very sad-looking fireman finally came up to break the news to the group, nobody could believe it. Miriam and Angus were only in their early sixties – how could they be gone? How could something as simple as a small electrical fault have taken them away, when they were so cheerful and full of life? They had been such a close family – how would their son and niece cope without them?

Unfortunately no one had those answers. And a week and a half later, when their niece, Josie, stepped out of her shower and rubbed her still-red eyes, she still had no answers. She was tallish, dark-haired and pretty, but there was little joy in her face as she dried herself off, pulled on her dressing gown and let her damp hair down. With a sigh, she headed out of her bedroom.

The old-fashioned strip light in her kitchen was blindingly bright, and she winced as it flicked on. As she only rented her flat, swapping the light out for something a bit less harsh was sadly not an option. Josie’s tastes in interior design were very specific, to say the least, and it often pained her to prepare her meals underneath something so ugly and industrial-looking.

Alongside three identical Mason jars containing sugar, tea and the regular instant coffee she served to visitors was the much smaller jar of Beanies Creamy Caramel flavoured instant that her amazing aunt had introduced her to. Making up her own travel mug was a lot cheaper than going to Starbucks five mornings a week, but Josie still felt guilty on occasion about the amount of sugar she needed to add to her morning coffee to make it even remotely tasty. She went through a lot of granulated sugar for a woman who hardly ever did any baking.

“Never apologise for having specific tastes in anything,” Aunt Miriam had said. “Be glad that you live in a world where making those choices is an option for you. Not everyone has it so lucky.”

Josie’s heart ached, as it had most days for the past week and a half. They were really gone. Two of her favourite people of all time were never going to give her great advice or celebrate with her or even speak to her ever again. She had dealt with personal grief before, but not as an adult. It was somehow more difficult to deal with…

Deep breath, honey. Deep breath. It’s got to be tougher for Sawyer and you two have something big to tackle today…

Once her coffee was finally ready, she sank down into her favourite armchair in the living room and pulled her laptop onto her knee. As it flickered to life, she was greeted with the home screen her older cousin had set up for her a couple of months ago. An enormous countdown with bright pink words that filled the entire screen with a reminder she’d sooner have forgotten about.


Sawyer had celebrated his thirtieth birthday four years earlier by spending two weeks in Alicante and getting drunk with a handsome señor on the beach every night, which wasn’t really Josie’s style. And on her current wage, it seemed unlikely that she could afford it anyway. Still, she could already hear Sawyer’s counterargument to her protests. Then why don’t you take a few days off work and book two nights in a spa hotel or a log cabin with a hot tub?

“Thirty, divorced and on holiday alone?” she muttered aloud, without really meaning to. “That is so lame…”

Determined not to think about the big three-oh – especially now that her aunt and uncle wouldn’t even be around to celebrate it with her – she checked her emails (nothing out of the ordinary) followed by Facebook (a few notifications, nothing to get excited about) plus a quick, naughty peek at Pinterest (Oh God, I love that wallpaper… and that dresser… and those bathroom tiles… Would that rug fit in my bedroom?)

Then, slightly less cheerfully, she opened up Tinder. She hadn’t particularly wanted to join, but Sawyer had pestered her into it – which, annoyingly, he was highly skilled at after almost a whole lifetime of practice.

“Come on, it’s been over a year since Conrad moved out,” he had said. “And even longer since you last got laid, am I right?”

Josie would rather have covered herself in jam and sat on a wasp nest than admit it to him, but he was right. Her efforts on Tinder hadn’t turned out many favourable results so far, however, and her latest match hadn’t seemed very promising.

Uh oh… Three new messages. With a weary sigh, she opened up the chat log – and it was exactly as she had expected.

So wut u up 2 this wknd?

Hello? Why u not answrin?

I thot you were better than just disappearin on a nice guy!

“Well, here we go again,” she said to the room at large, sipping her coffee and bracing herself for utter honesty. When she was ghosted before there could even be a first date, she accepted it and moved on. Why did men always have to lash out when their pride was hurt?


Despite the fact that I do look young for my age (thanks for noticing), I’m approaching 30, not 13. Hate to break it to you but not many self-respecting women in my age bracket will put up with some of the behaviours you’ve displayed during our ten-day “courtship”. Just a few examples being:

* Commenting that my profile pic makes me look like a hippie
* Telling me it sounds like I eat too much chocolate
* Saying that interior design isn’t a real hobby when you think that Rick’s nihilism in Rick & Morty is something to be admired
* Dissing my favourite colour
* Saying you find cats annoying
* Describing your ex as a “psycho”
* Using the phrase “Piers Morgan had a point”
* Saying you’d message me on Tuesday evening and then not bothering until Thursday morning
* Claiming that gay couples shouldn’t be allowed to adopt

You can pretend I inserted the phrase “no offence” here if you like, but all that makes you sound like an asshole, and I’m on here looking for something genuine.

P.S. I would also advise you against expressing pride that you share a first name with the guy who sang ‘Blurred Lines’.

And send.

“Another one bites the dust.” Josie rubbed her eyes and sighed again. “Don’t know why I bother…”

Her gaze fell upon the well-thumbed copy of He’s Just Not That Into You that sat on her shelf. She had tried her best to follow Greg Behrendt’s sage advice since she was around seventeen, although the lack of decent, local, available men had really been getting her down recently.

A loud ping drew her attention back to Facebook. She had received a multi-recipient message, and as soon as she saw who it was from, she blushed bright pink.
Sorry for those of you who this affects, but the Wednesday morning class is cancelled! Got to take my old mum up to the hospital, my apologies!

This change in scheduling by the owner of the gym she attended didn’t affect Josie herself – she worked full-time and could only make the evening classes – but any communication from her very handsome instructor set her face flaming.

I am such a cliché…

The ring of her phone, thankfully, distracted her from that depressing thought. She picked it up and groaned; the number on the screen was all too familiar. I should have seen this coming. And under any other circumstances, she would have ignored it – she normally only had to endure these calls at Christmas time – but instead, her thumb moved of its own accord and pressed ‘Answer’.

“Hello?” Completely casual.

“Hi, Josie… It’s me.”

“Hi,” she said blankly.

“How… how are you holding up? We… uh… we heard about the accident. It’s been such a horrible shock.”

Despite her initial annoyance, Josie found herself thawing a little; there was real choked-up emotion in the woman’s voice. Even if you hadn’t seen someone in years, it could still be quite jarring to be told they were gone and you’d never have a chance at seeing them again.

“Um… I’ve not been too bad, I guess. Still just working and that. I’m meeting up with Sawyer this morning to talk about the funeral.”

“Yes… well, that’s why we’re calling. Ahem.” Embarrassed pause. “When is the date?”

“Erm… I can’t remember, actually.” Lies. “But we’re currently in the middle of arranging it all… You should get an official notice in the mail within the next week or so.”

“Right. Uh… thank you.” Another embarrassed pause. “How is Conrad?”

Internal scream. “He’s… doing fine, last time I heard. He lives pretty far away now; we only really catch up now and again.”

“Anyone… new in your life, then, honey?”

Josie managed not to snort, but it was a close one. Yeah, like she really cares. “No. Not at the moment.”

“Oh, right.” Pause. “Well, um… we don’t know for certain if we’ll be able to make the journey, but we’ll certainly let you know. Once we’ve decided.”

“Of course.” Josie’s voice was flat. There wasn’t much point in asking them what they’d been up to; they never did anything exciting.

“You… take it easy, then, hun.”

“You too. Bye!” She hung up faster than was perhaps polite, but every call from them was exactly the same.

Here’s hoping Sawyer’s prepared to let me rant a bit.

Josie dressed relatively quickly and sat down at her tiny vanity table. She swirled an Avon cream blush stick across both cheeks, then rolled her eyes at her reflection. As if it mattered to Sawyer whether she wore makeup or not.

Although maybe he might be pleased that I’m making the effort, just on the off chance that there are any cute single straight men in the cafe…

Several minutes later she grabbed her bag, stepped out of her front door – and was promptly accosted by her favourite tiny terror.

“Oh, hi, Scraps!” she beamed, her entire face lighting up at once as she bent down to pet the gorgeous little brown dachshund that skipped excitedly around her ankles.

“Morning, Josie,” said her elderly neighbour, who was only halfway up the stairs with a bright red leash in one hand. “He always runs ahead when he hears your door open!”

Josie loved little dogs and had dog-sat for Patricia on a few occasions. “How’s he getting on?”

“More fighting fit than me, that’s for sure,” Patricia chuckled as she reached them. She bent down with a small wince and scooped the excitable dog up into her arms. “Come on, sweetheart, we’ve got some special treats for you! Have a nice day, Josie.”

They disappeared inside, and for the first time in a while, Josie was able to smile a little.

Guess family isn’t always just people…

#BookReview: On The Spectrum by Daniel Bowman Jr

I made it a point to get this one in during #AutismAcceptanceMonth, even though it doesn’t actually release until August.

This is apparently officially a “collection of essays”, but the organization works such that it never feels disjointed, as other efforts of this vein I’ve read tend to do. But that could just be my own #ActuallyAutistic mind working similarly to Bowman’s.

If you’ve ever heard of the late great Rachel Held Evans, and particularly if you like her style, you’re going to enjoy this particular book. Bowman has a roughly similar background to Evans (and thus even rougher similar to myself) in that he has experience in the Baptist church and now finds himself in a more progressive mainline church, and in both of their cases are more academic-oriented to boot. Thus, even while explaining his own version of the intersection of faith and Autism – and on being Autistic more generally, but through that lens – his words really do evoke the same kinds of tones Evans’ work did.

This was enjoyable for me due to the *lack* of constant “Autistics need government intervention” diatribes that so many books make their central point of Autism – even from among fellow Autistics (such as Eric Garcia’s We’re Not Broken, which publishes a week earlier and which, IIRC, I posted about here roughly a month ago). Instead, Bowman’s life and thoughts flow more closely to my own, with key community members becoming mentors over the eras and helping him naturally become all that he now is.

Indeed, if I have a criticism of the book – and I do, though it isn’t large enough for a star deduction – it is the emphasis on an “official” Autism diagnosis. I trust docs as much as I trust politicians these days – which is to say, I don’t trust them to accurately tell me the color of the noontime cloudless sky, and verify it myself. And one does not need someone else to dictate a word based on their own understanding of it, particularly when that person isn’t even living with the thing in question. And this ignores the very real, sometimes very negative, real world repercussions of having such an “official” label.

Still, for anyone interested in knowing more about what life is really like as an Autistic, this truly is one of the better books I’ve come across in my own readings. Very much recommended.

This review of On The Spectrum by Daniel Bowman Jr was originally written on April 26, 2021.

#BookReview: We’re Not Broken by Eric Garcia

Mostly Solid Work A Bit Misguided By Its Own Biases. This is one of the more comprehensive books I’ve found about the actual issues facing Autistics in the current world (circa 2020) – well, in the US anyway. Discussions of education, gender, housing, personhood, etc are mostly solid and mostly problem free, focusing on numerous interviews the author has conducted over several years combined with well documented (roughly 32% of the text of this Advance Reader Copy I read) research.

It even has two *extremely* good points:
1) “We don’t know what Autism in and of itself looks like. We only know how autism informed by trauma presents itself.” -Cal Montgomery
2) From the close of Chapter 9: “People who are not Autistic often assume they are acting benevolently by hand-holding those on the spectrum. But despite their best intentions, there is an element of condescension in thse actions because it assumes that non-Autistic people know what’s best. But it is Autistic people who live with the condition of Autism – for all of its positives and negatives – as well as the consequences of any collective action meant to help them. If there is going to be policy that has seismic impact on their lives, they deserve to have a say it in, no mater how they communicate. Furthermore, while many parent advocates, clinicians, and other “experts” may have good intentions, centering their voices continues to give them power that should lie with the Autistic community. To achieve any true sense of freedom, Autistic people need to take this power back.”

HOWEVER, the fact that the discussion routinely ignores and even outright dismisses the needs and challenges of white Autistics and/ or Autistics who *do* find meaningful employment in the science and/ or technology sectors means that the book fails to have truly the comprehensive discussion of the condition that it seems to seek to have. In ignoring these facets, it doesn’t truly “change the Autism conversation” in any truly helpful manner, as it blatantly ignores and dismisses a key component that can actually do quite a bit of good in trying to address all of the other issues the narrative does go in detail on. We Autistic technologists can create the very technologies Garcia sometimes points to as being needed, in part because we ourselves truly do live with these very same issues – and thus, we don’t actually need a neurotypical trying to approximate some solution, as we can create a solution that works for our own particular case and allow for it to be customized to fit other cases as well.

Ultimately this truly is a very strong look at the state of Autistic society today and the issues Autistics face in trying to fully integrate into larger neurotypical societies, it simply missed its potential to be so much more. Very much recommended.

This review of We’re Not Broken by Eric Garcia was originally written on March 14, 2021.

#BookReview: The Good Sister by Sally Hepworth

Compelling Family Drama. This one was pretty wild. On the one hand, you’ve got one twin sister who seems to be Autistic, though that word is never once used. Instead, Hepworth simply claims various “sensory processing disorders” (many of them very similar to this Autistic’s own, fwiw) and shows this twin taking things very literally, not reading people very well, etc. IOW, classic signs of Autism – but again, that word is never once used in the text. Which is both cool and irritating. The other twin is a diabetic that feels she must always protect her Autistic sister. Except… let’s just say the twins don’t always remember the same events the same way. 😉 Deeper into the book, a much larger conspiracy develops that really turns the back half of the book to near breakneck speeds. And then those last words… Truly excellent book, even without the use of the one word, and very much recommended.

This review of The Good Sister by Sally Hepworth was originally written on December 5, 2020.

#BookReview: The Pattern Seekers by Simon Baron-Cohen

Intriguing Theory. Full disclosure up front: I *am* Autistic, and thus these types of books tend to demand my attention as I attempt to understand my own mind and body. That noted, Baron-Cohen (no apparent relation to the actor of the same surname) here proposes a theory that those who are “high systemizers” – those he defines as people driven by a process many in programming will recognize as a version of Agile Programming – are the ones who have driven human innovation from the dawn of the species. It is a theory that has at least some degree of merit, but perhaps has a few weaknesses that the author omits – though he does make a point of discussing some competing theories, it is possible that there are other explanations that fit at least some of the data better according to Occam’s Razor. Still, he makes a repeated point that even those suspected of being Autistic should not seek a diagnosis unless their abilities are somehow causing problems, which is a point that many in the Autism literature – at least that which I have read – fail to make or even contradict, and for that reason alone this book is a refreshing change of pace. (It also opens with one of my favorite quotes, from The Imitation Game – the story of Alan Turing, the father of Computer Science and a suspected Autistic – that “Sometimes it is the people no one imagines anything of who do the things no one can imagine.”)

Overall a a must-read book for those seeking to understand Autistics, as it really does make a lot of very solid points – points that were affecting me nearly as much as my first viewing of The Imitation Game. This is yet another one that I will absolutely be recommending those seeking to work with me professionally read, as it can give them many clues both how to understand me – and how to use me much more effectively. Very much recommended.

This review of The Pattern Seekers by Simon Baron-Cohen was originally written on July 8, 2020.