autism awareness month
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Title: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Author: Mark Haddon
Publication Date: May 2004
Overview: Christopher can’t sleep. When he can’t sleep, he goes outside; he likes the night-time for walking because it’s quiet. But then he stumbles across his neighbor’s dog who is not only dead, but murdered. He then goes about the neighborhood detecting. Christopher is about to find out who killed his neighbor’s dog.
For Fans Of: Jonathan Safran Foer
This is yet another book I feel requires a less formal review. I loved Christopher and could see my brother and friends in him. His worries and straight-forward thoughts and communication were so true to my experiences. Also, I loved his one joke.
More importantly, I think Christopher’s family hits home for families with autism. The truth is most families struggle to cope with autism in all its forms. Abuse, affairs, divorce are all common after an autism diagnosis. Christopher’s family struggles with some very real problems. But Haddon also does a great job of showing the love and dedication that come with autism. The willingness to fight to see the world do right by your family and those you love was so well represented.
Overall, I thought Haddon did a great job showing both the very serious and humorous sides of autism without using the typical savant trope or making Christopher ever less-than-human.
As some of you may know, it’s autism awareness month. This is a very special issue to me; my older brother, G, has very severe autism and my childhood took place in an environment where that was not an unusual or strange thing.
I understand more than most what a mixed blessing a family member with disability can be, particularly when that disability is mental. There are frustrations and anger, but also love and compassion. This is why it irks me when I see most portrayals of mental disability in literature, especially SF/F.
Literature often does not portray mental disability well. Whether out of ignorance or inability to show the complex family and social dynamics, literature (as well as many other storytelling medium) fall far short of the mark. I often find that, in fiction, persons with disability are used more as a plot device than as a character with purpose and emotion. This is not something done maliciously or out of some anger towards those with disability, but perhaps it happens because we take people for granted–people of all shapes, sizes, and ability.
I’ve put below some of my favorite representations of autism and disability below. I’d love to hear yours.
Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck
A Song of Fire and Ice, George R.R. Martin (This is not for Hodor’s protrayal, which I find largely disappointing, but for his relationship with his grandmother, who loves and accepts him for who he is despite her frustrations.)
Flowers for Algernon, Daniel Keyes
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, by Jonathan Safran Foer