Title: Being Autistic: Nine adults share their journeys from discovery to diagnosis
Edited By: Caroline Hearst
Notable Selection: The Ground Under My Feet
Disclosure: I received a copy of this book for free from AutAngel in exchange for an honest review.
There’s a certain feeling that comes over you when you pick up the perfect book, and although I was an avid reader throughout childhood, I found that feeling to be a rare experience.
As a late-diagnosed autistic woman, I now know that as much as I loved a great tale, what my adolescent self was seeking was a story about someone like myself, but many of the pages I escaped into still did not include characters I could identify with.
Then, in December 2020, I was given the opportunity to provide this review of a short anthology from AutAngel. I wasn’t provided much info aside from the knowledge that the book included a selection of first-hand experiences had by Autistic adults outside the US, so I waited patiently for the book to arrive. When I finally found a small parcel stuffed into my mailbox, my emotion was one of immediate excitement.
Inside the package was a simple, 63-page paperback book. It was pretty easy on the eyes, devoid of any glitz or glamorous design on the cover, but the name alone instantly drew me in. The faded orange cover titled, Being Autistic: Nine adults share their journey from discovery to acceptance, let me know that within those pages, I’d find stories that dealt with themes exploring self-awareness and exploration— about discovering and identifying as different in a society that only sees autistic people as broken.
In the introduction, Caroline Hurst calls the text a “starting point for your exploration.” The book’s target audience is autistic adults looking for relatable experiences— whether it be understanding, hope, growth or a community to associate with.
While Being Autistic is not a guide to living in a neurotypical world, it is a source of insight. The stories shared are by people from different backgrounds who were all diagnosed (self- or professionally) at different ages. It is a collection of personal struggles and realizations had by those navigating life before and after discovery of their identities.
Although this is not the perfect book, it is a great celebration of autism as an identity, focusing on the impact and validity of self- and late diagnosis. It shows readers they aren’t alone and proves that discoveries can be made via community connections regardless of distance.
While everyone who picks up this book may not agree with each contributors’ vocabulary, justifications, or decisions shared, I believe that many will relate to their journeys and obstacles.
The stories explore physical, spiritual, and social concepts and models of disability and barriers to success and/or satisfaction, whether they be because of mindsets, systems, or environments. They discuss the differences between claiming Autistic/Aspie as an identity instead of, or in addition to, a disability, and the challenges that result with both.
I would recommend this little anthology to anyone autistic learning about their newly-realized or diagnosed identity, and any non-autistic person wishing to gain insight into our journeys.
Being Autistic is imperfect, not because of any inherent flaw in the text, but for a missed opportunity to explore this journey in the context of race, gender, sexuality, co-occurring disability, and other intersections of identity that could have given more dimension to the diverse experience of being autistic. However, the theme was consistent in its focus on the journey of recognizing and coming to accept being autistic, and the lack of diversity may be a result of the short length of the book.
I would recommend Being Autistic for unapologetic truth, openness, and brevity. The book can be purchased from the Autangel page by clicking here.