This weekend I read Naoki Higashida’s book THE REASON I JUMP, translated and introduced by my favorite author, David Mitchell.
It was a very quick and enlightening read. The author, Naoki Higashida, wrote the book at age 13. It is part memoir, part how-to, explaining his world as an autistic person, and suggesting ways that non-autistic people might understand autism and interrelate with people who have autism. Higashida’s words are immensely moving and clear; his writing through David Mitchell’s lens reminds me of that of Thich Nhat Hahn.
The majority of the book follows a question/answer format. For example, he discusses the question, “Why do people with autism talk so loudly and weirdly?” early on, and moves on to others like, “Do you prefer to be on your own?”. The common thread I interpreted from his writing is that he can often be frustrated with his condition, but is immensely in need of love from others and craves to be part of his human community. What is most tragic to him is when people, often out of lack of patience, refuse to understand him. I found some of the short stories he writes between the question/answer chapters to be intensely emotional.
I grew up with an autistic classmate. He often bore the brunt of a lot of jokes and peer abuse, and I can only imagine how difficult it must have been for him in school. I can also imagine that it was frustrating for his parents and our teachers as well, seeing as attention to autism was not particularly heightened in those days. Higashida’s message to us non-autistic people is one of patience and love. He repeats several times, “please try to understand what we are going through”.
That’s a message I will do my best to remember… not just for people with autism, but for everyone.
Finally, many thanks to my friend Luthien Brackett for telling me about this book!