Ever since he was small, John Robison had longed to connect with other people. But by the time he was a teenager, his odd habits, including an inclination to blurt out non sequiturs, avoid eye contact, dismantle radios, and dig five-foot holes, had earned him the label "social deviant". No guidance came from his mother or his father. It was no wonder he gravitated to machines, which could, at least, be counted on. After fleeing his parents and dropping out of high school, his savant-like ability to visualize electronic circuits landed him a gig with KISS. Later, he drifted into a "real" job, as an engineer for a major toy company. But the higher Robison rose in the company, the more he had to pretend to be "normal" and do what he simply couldn't: communicate. It was not until he was 40 that an insightful therapist told him he had the form of autism called Asperger's syndrome. That understanding transformed the way Robison saw himself - and the world. A born storyteller, Robison takes you inside the head of a boy teachers and other adults regarded as "defective". He also provides a fascinating reverse angle on the younger brother he left at the mercy of their nutty parents: the boy who would later change his name to Augusten Burroughs. Ultimately, this is the story of Robison's journey from his world into ours, and his new life as a husband, father, and successful small business owner. It's a strange, sly, indelible account, sometimes alien, yet always deeply human.More
"Thoughtful and thoroughly memorable." (Publishers Weekly)
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Interesting autobiography; not autism-informative
The author does not have any training in science, psychology, or logic; which is not a crime in itself, but he constantly uses "I'm autistic, so therefore I cannot help but think logically!" to explain away some very illogical lines of thought and fabricated narratives. As an autistic scientist myself, this drove me up the wall.
He comes up with a lot of mighty tempting narratives that sound pretty plausible, and states them as facts and logic (think: bad evolutionary psychology papers). Nobody is born with a solid grasp on logic or science, not even autistic people (although they might have a leg-up on the competition). This is why there is extensive coursework and schooling for these subjects.
I would have much preferred that the author frame this story as an interesting autobiography of somebody with a very weird and interesting life who happened to be autistic. Did his autism influence and affect his life and perception? Certainly it did, and that makes his accounts very interesting, but he should have left out his countless "autism teaching moments" where he pauses the story to say "now see, this is all because of my autism, clearly I had no choice and clearly I was the only logical one there."
I would have removed these parts, partly because they got repetitive and obnoxious, and mostly because there is no way to parse out how much of his reactions are due to his autism and how much are due to his traumatic and tumultuous childhood (or even some combination of both).
I love autism self-advocacy and I think it is very important, but he loves to make "scientific" and "psychiatric" evaluations of his actions post-hoc, when he doesn't have any training in these fields (and this is painfully obvious). Just as a woman is uniquely qualified to speak about her experiences and feelings as a woman, she cannot describe her own biology accurately unless she had received sufficient education in biology or performed sufficient biological studies and learned that way.
For these reasons, if you are interested in autism self-advocacy or you want to learn more about autism, I would suggest sticking to Rudy Simone or Temple Grandin instead. They are more scientifically-minded than John Elder Robison and are more versed in the nuances of autism and individual experiences. If you just want to read a fun autobiography from a man who had an incredibly unusual (even for an Aspergian) life and you don't necessarily need to learn anything about autism, then Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger's will fit the bill. Because don't get me wrong, it was still a fun and exciting narrative.