Published by Random House on Aug. 2013
Written by a thirteen-year-old boy with Autism, The Reason I Jump takes readers into the minds of people who live with this often misunderstood disorder. I bought a copy of this book after hearing a bookseller at Fountain Bookstore rave about it, and I thought it was a fascinating little book.
Naok is unable to speak his ideas clearly, so he uses an alphabet grid (a method of nonvocal communication) to convey his thoughts, which his helper transcribes. Using this method of writing, he answers the questions many people have about what is like to be autistic. He uses a question-and-answer format to address such questions as:
- Why do people with autism talk so loudly and weirdly?
- Why do you ask the same questions over and over?
- Why don’t you make eye contact when you’re talking?
- Why do you clap your fingers and hands in front of your face?
- Why do you repeat certain acts again and again?
Interspersed with these questions and answers are short stories written by Naoki, an aspiring creative writer. These pieces are beautiful little gems; some describe his thoughts about what autism is/where it comes from, and some create metaphors for what it is like to have autism. They are quiet and lovely and just as enlightening as Naoki’s answers to specific questions.
I have had very limited experience interacting with people with autism, but it was interesting to read about the reasons behind some of the behavior I have witnessed. I can only imagine what an incredible read this must be for parents of autistic children. While searching for books to help them understand their autistic son, David Mitchell’s Japanese wife K.A. Yoshida read the original Japanese version of this book, and the two of them worked together to translate it into English. In his introduction, Mitchell writes, “Reading [this book] felt as if, for the first time, our own son was talking to us about what was happening inside his head, through Naoki’s words… It is no exaggeration to say that The Reason I Jump allowed me to round a corner in our relationship with our son.”
Although this book is probably most relevant to parents, teachers, or other caretakers of people with autism, I highly recommend it to anyone. Not only is it fascinating to learn more about this disorder, but Naoki has a fantastic voice and an inspiring message. Although reading about how much he hates himself for the way he makes other people feel uncomfortable was heartbreaking, it was so inspiring to read, later about how beautiful and calming nature is to him. His outlook on the world is breathtaking. This book is in turns heartbreaking, uplifting, inspiring, fascinating, informative, and poignant.
“I’m guessing that what touches you in nature is the beauty of the trees and the flowers and things. But to us people with special needs, nature is as important as our own lives. The reason is that when we look at nature, we receive a sort of permission to be alive in this world, and our bodies get recharged. However often we’re ignored and pushed away by other people, nature will always give us a good big hug, here inside our hearts.”
This book can easily be read in one sitting; it took me about two hours, and I’m not a fast reader by any means. I think The Reason I Jump should be required reading for anyone who regularly interacts with people with autism, but I would recommend it to anyone interested in expanding the scope of their understanding of humanity.