Friday, February 7, 2014

Monthly Reads: January 2014

The Reason I Jump by Naoki Higashida
This was a quick read that gave a first hand account of a thirteen-year-old boy's experience living with autism. The book is mostly in a Q&A format with some short stories sprinkled throughout (which I really enjoyed). I was amazed at the complexity in which the author was able to communicate in this book; in the introduction, David Mitchell explains the method by which Naoki is able to write/communicate and it is pretty interesting. I haven't spent very much time around autistic individuals myself, but I think after reading this book, my understanding is slightly better. How they can be so highly sensitive, and perceive things like time and light differently. How they struggle to control their body and their speech. One thing that I really picked up on was Naoki's desire for stability and being comfortable, whether that means being comfortable in his environment or clothes, obeying compulsions, etc. It sounds like the desire for stability is common among people with autism and makes me think about how difficult it must be when they go through transitions in caretakers. In any case, living with autism seems like a battle, but that doesn't by any means mean that people living with autism are not intelligent, emotionally complex folks. In fact, it appears that they look at the world in a very different and beautiful way than the rest of us.

Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth by Warsan Shire
Oh, this took me to another place. It is so beautifully and delicately written. It is short, but I went back and reread parts over and over again. Currently reflecting on how we carry the experiences and trauma of the generations that came before. And how can poems that are so short be so poignant? Raw, sensual, moving, deep. It gave me a glimpse into someone else's trauma, while making me think that maybe I could be brave enough to visit my own.

“I have my mother’s mouth and my father’s eyes; on my face they are still together.”

“You are terrifying and strange and beautiful. Something not everyone knows how to love.”

“I belong deeply to myself.”

Ordinary Affects by Kathleen Stewart
I came home to find this in my mailbox one day. My good friend had sent it to my as a surprise holiday gift! That in itself has made it a special book for me, and I'm not sure if I could have not read it through at that point. I appreciated how many of the stories were somehow connected to each other; it was kind of like reading a mix cd of vignettes. I haven't read a whole lot of writing like this so I did find myself reading and rereading parts over and over again, instinctively searching for a plot thinking, "wait, what happened?" But that's not the point if this book, and as soon as I was able to let go of that, I still read parts of it over and over, but it was to absorb all the detail-- not because I was stuck on a plot that wasn't there. Happy to keep this as a book on my shelf.

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