Title: The Reason I Jump
Author: Naoki Higashida
Publisher: Random House
Page Count: 135
Publication Date: 2013
Category/Genre: Memoir, Autobiography, Non Fiction, Psychology
Good Reads Rating: ★★★★☆ (3.82)
My Rating: ★★★★☆(4.0)
Written by Naoki Higashida, a very smart, very self-aware, and very charming thirteen-year-old boy with autism, it is a one-of-a-kind memoir that demonstrates how an autistic mind thinks, feels, perceives, and responds in ways few of us can imagine. Parents and family members who never thought they could get inside the head of their autistic loved one, at last, have a way to break through to the curious, subtle, and complex life within.
Using an alphabet grid to painstakingly construct words, sentences, and thoughts that he is unable to speak out loud, Naoki answers even the most delicate questions that people want to know. Questions such as: “Why do people with autism talk so loudly and weirdly?” “Why do you line up your toy cars and blocks?” “Why don’t you make eye contact when you’re talking?” and “What’s the reason you jump?” (Naoki’s answer: “When I’m jumping, it’s as if my feelings are going upward to the sky.”) With disarming honesty and a generous heart, Naoki shares his unique point of view on not only autism but life itself. His insights—into the mystery of words, the wonders of laughter, and the elusiveness of memory—are so startling, so strange, and so powerful that you will never look at the world the same way again.
My 2020 Reading Challenge prompted me to pick up a selection written by or about someone with an Autism Spectrum Disorder. In my past, I had worked with children, adolescents and, adults that have been diagnosed or labeled with such disorder. I had read various pieces of psychological and developmental papers and case studies, but I had never actually read anything written by or about someone’s experience. All my familiarity was clinical, academic or one-sided based on professionals observations.
The Reason I Jump author Naoki Higashida was born in 1992 and was diagnosed with autism when he was 5. One of his teachers designed an alphabet grid to help Naoki communicate his thoughts, and when he was 13 years old he wrote this book which was then printed in Japan in 2007. It was later translated into English by David Mitchell and KA Yoshida.
The book is essentially a FAQ of questions that almost anyone who has been in contact might have wondered or asked. It also has a few short stories written by Naoki sprinkled throughout the book, giving readers a peek into his creative outlet and further highlighting how tremendously difficult and frustrating it must be for him to live day to day with such problems communicating verbally or in person.
“This was an incredible feeling! Not being able to talk means not being to share what you’re feeling and thinking. It’s like being a doll spending your whole life in isolation, without dreams and without hopes.”
Some have criticized the translator David Mitchell for possibly embellishing much of the writing (he has said he provided the ‘stylistic icing on the cake of the translation’) and one thing I noticed was that most of the book speaks in too big of generalizations. “Us and “We” are used throughout instead of “I” and “me” and I believe that no one can ever really speak for a whole group of people –only for ourselves. Despite these minor elements, I still found The Reason I Jump to be an illuminating insight into the mind of an autistic child.
My biggest takeaway was how hard Naoki works on trying to be able to control his thoughts and body, and how much he just desperately wants to fit in and please others. I found this particular point heart-wrenching as so often those with Austim are so easily misunderstood or dismissed for their behaviors.
“The hardest ordeal for us is the idea that we are causing grief for other people. We can put up with our own hardships okay, but the thought that our lives are the source of other people’s unhappiness, that’s plain unbearable.”
I would highly recommend it to anyone who works with autistic people or who has a loved one who is on the spectrum. It is a great reminder that there many ways in which to experience or view the world. By building greater understanding and tolerance then we can create better experiences for all people.