Book Review by Morwenna from Harlington Library to mark Autism awareness Week 2021.
Naoki Higashida wrote his best-selling book, The Reason I Jump, when he was just thirteen years old. Being unable to speak aloud, Higashida writes using an alphabet grid – a table of letters which he would point at, to then be transcribed by a helper. This method of communication gave Higashida a way to express himself and communicate with others and eventually led him to create The Reason I Jump. Throughout the book, Higashida answers questions about autism and offers his perspective on why people with autism behave in some of the ways that they do. These questions include: “why do people with autism talk so loudly and weirdly?”, “why do you line up your toy cars and blocks?” and “what’s the reason you jump?”. In answering these questions Higashida hopes that his readers might better understand how people with autism think, and importantly, they “might become a better friend of someone with autism”.
I found The Reason I Jump really moving and I am very glad that I got the opportunity to read it. Higashida’s answers to the questions helped me to better understand what it is like to live with autism and the struggles that it can bring. Higashida does not always have answers as to why he does the things that he does, but he offers his perspective alongside simple suggestions on how people without autism can better communicate with people who do. The Reason I Jump is also beautifully written. Higashida’s answers are poetic and descriptive and his writing gives the book a charm and lightness which often made me smile.
Some criticism of The Reason I Jump is that Higashida answers the questions based on his singular perspective of what it is like to live with autism. However, when answering he uses a generalised “we”, and the answers and experiences he gives will undoubtedly not be the same for all people with autism. This criticism is an important consideration, but I read The Reason I Jump as Higashida’s personal perspective on this world. The book might not be an accurate account of the experience of all people with autism, but it does highlight some of the difficulties and isolation that are associated with autism, and encourages readers to treat others with kindness, patience and understanding.
The Reason I Jump is a poignant example of seeing the world from a different point of view and it is an insightful account of Naoki Higashida’s experience, and the struggles and joys that he has.