Review – Be Different

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Written by John Elder Robison as a series of short stories from his childhood and meant to give the reader a peek into the Aspergian mind, this book is a mix of memoir, education, mental health, and even self help.

Originally published: U.S. March 22, 2011

Blurbed by Temple Grandin and Mark Roithmayr (president of Autism Speaks) and sporting a beautiful cover, be different draws the audience in and prepares them for some quirky fun as they learn more about Aspergers, a form of autism.

When I requested, and was subsequently sent, this book for review from Blogging for Books, i was expecting something that looked more into the technical bits of Aspergian life. I saw that it was a series of advice/short stories and was honestly expecting to see articles, anecdotes from other Aspies (Robison’s word for those diagnosed with Aspergers), and maybe even some notes from a teacher or two. However, this book was not at all what I expected. While I was looking for the ‘advice’ part promised to me in the title, what most of the book entails is actually the other part, the part where he details his own adventures with Asperger’s. Except Mr. Robison was not diagnosed until his 40s. Which means that the stories we get in this book are actually told to us as an acknowledged Aspergian looks back at his childhood and discusses what happened in the light of having NOT KNOWN he was Aspergian. Sound confusing? It isn’t really.

What Mr. Robison does well in this book is, among other things, detailing what he did and what happened to him and then spending a sentence or two describing whether that was or was not a good way to handle it in the light of Aspergers.

The writing style is fairly clear and well done. The stories are mostly memoir with very little advice thrown in until the final chapter, but the advice seems like something most people can easily discern without explicit directions. (Unless you’re one of those Aspergians who NEEDS explicit directions. Hmm…)

However, Mr. Robison only mentions females as ‘girls’ to be learned about, feared, and, hopefully, dated. The only instance of women otherwise mentioned (besides offhand mentions of his mother) were of Little Bear, his son Cubby’s mother. She also has Aspergers…but he offers no advice or comments TO females. In fact, all of his stories and advice is written with an obvious slant to males. While this is understandable since he is, in fact, a male, AND the advice is applicable to both genders, someone with autism might not feel they ‘belong in/reading’ a book that doesn’t mention their gender. As someone dealing with a form of autism, I felt that he should have known and dealt with that at some point. He is also very self involved, which is typical for Aspergians and comes across well. I haven’t decided, and likely never will agree with myself, on whether this is frustrating, annoying, and a poor writing choice (especially in the times when he completely condones physical violence and leaving schools) or if it is necessary.

On the whole, I found this book to be well written and interesting. Though I would have liked more advice and possibly less repetition on the themes, I feel like this is a solid book for helping teen Aspies, Prot-Aspies (people with traits but not full on Aspergers) and Nypicals (neuro-typical or non-autistic people) understand how to handle their side of the spectrum and possibly how to help others.

I am rating this book a 3.5 out of 5 stars.

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Raising Cubby By John Elder Robison

Raising Cubby: A Father and Son’s Adventures with Asperger’s, Trains, Tractors, and High Explosives.
Written By: John Elder Robison

*I received a free copy of this book from BloggingForBooks in return for an honest review

John Elder Robison has written a beautifully worded tome that takes people through his life as a father with Aspergers…raising a son with the same.

A little back story on Aspergers, for those who don’t know much about it:

The dictionary defines Aspergers Syndrome as – noun, Psychiatry.
1.
a developmental disorder characterized by severely impaired social skills, repetitive behaviors, and often, a narrow set of interests, but not involving delayed development of linguistic and cognitive abilities: now considered one of the autism spectrum disorders.

Social Skills – things that most people take for granted like speaking to friends, meeting new people, or even walking through school – these ‘normal’ and often overlooked skills are difficult to learn and understand when you are a member of this ‘elite group.’ (Think – Bazinga! You sat in my spot!)

Change is difficult, minor issues become obsessions (poodle hair feels strange so I can’t pet my dog!), and many parts of your day must be repetitive to keep you comfortable.

Think about that for a few seconds

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Now, imagine having all of that and raising a child; a child who is also diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome. This book allows you to take whatever shallow pseudo-understanding a person not suffering from being on the spectrum might have, and kick it up a notch (even those of us who have had a lot of interaction with the Spectrum aren’t going to ever truly understand it, each case is different and trying in its own right!).

I’m not going to launch a litany of reasons for you to read this book, there are too many to list in my self-imposed 500 words or less box. I’m just going to give you two more:

1) This book is ACTION PACKED (explosions, court cases, car wrecks, etc)

and

2) If you were a completely, socially anxious person with trouble expressing yourself to the outside world and you wrote a book that is now available to that outside world…would you want people to pass it by? I wouldn’t…and I don’t think you should either!

I give this book 4.5 out of 5 Dragons.  Thank you Mr. Robison for sharing this story with the world!

*As a side note, as doctors begin to understand more about the Autism Spectrum, changes are being made to the way people are being diagnosed, and handled, and teachers are able to learn more about how to teach those particular students.