Review: The Reason I Jump by Naoki Higashida

Everyone should read this book.

trijYou’ve never read a book like The Reason I Jump. 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.


Things I understood about Autism before reading:

  • Anything that could be gleaned from The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime.
  • Nothing.

Things I understand about Autism now:

  • There is a spectrum
  • You’re in a world where oral communication is difficult NOT language or understanding.
  • There is a lack of control, not a lack of will to control.
  • Memory acts outside a non-autistic experience of time.
  • Creative, imaginative minds.
  • There is no lack of empathy.
  • Someone with Autism is just like you and I

To list but a few.

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“I swear conversation is such hard work! To make myself understood, it’s like I have to speak in an unknown foreign language, every minute of every day.” – Naoki

I wanted to read this book for three reasons:

  1. David Mitchell (author of Cloud Atlas) wrote the introduction (his son is Autistic).
  2. John Stewart recommended in highly.
  3. I wanted to understand.

The third point is the important one; if I understand Autism it stops me being rude, unhelpful and dismissive – it stops me making assumptions. There isn’t really anything more damaging than ignorance. 

Naoki’s book is an illuminating insight into a life with Autism, his understanding of what it is to not be Autistic makes me embarrassed that I did not know or understand what it is like to be Autistic. His life is a constant battle to communicate how he is feeling and experiencing a world that doesn’t always make sense to him, fighting a body and a brain that won’t always let him be in control. He has droves of empathy, his heart breaks when he thinks he is hurting or upsetting the people trying to help him – he is not an idiot, unintelligent or without understanding.

This hasn’t made me an expert on Autism – it wasn’t supposed to – this is a window to another dimension of understanding and while I am still ignorant, I’m slightly less ignorant than before. Naoki’s book is one of a kind, it’s notes from the inside.

“You can’t judge a person by their looks. But once you know the other person’s inner self, both of you cab be that much closer. From your point of view, the world of Autism must look like a deeply mysterious place. So please, spare a little time to listen to what I have to say. And have a nice trip through our world” – Naoki

 

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14 Comments on "Review: The Reason I Jump by Naoki Higashida"

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agneslesti
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RT @nomoreparades: Review: The Reason I Jump by Naoki Higashida http://t.co/7um48Jd40T #ofBooks

Meggy (Adrift on Vulcan)
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That is one gorgeous cover, and I’m so glad that the story inside was equally as beautiful. Like you, I don’t know a lot about autism (I don’t know anything, really!), and despite having read THE CURIOUS INCIDENT, that was ages ago and I can’t remember anything now. But any book that manages to send you away with so many life lessons — yes, life lessons! These are things I think everyone should know, though sometimes we’re just too lazy to learn about (like me) — would definitely benefit me. A lot. “if I understand Autism it stops me being… Read more »
Jenny @ Reading the End
Guest

I’ve been reading a bit about autism the last couple of years — nothing exhaustive, but every time another article comes out about the DSM-V collapsing Asberger’s into the autism spectrum, I poke around the internet a bit to read about the experiences of people on the spectrum. This sounds wonderful.

Andrew Blackman
Guest

Wow. Sounds like a book I need to read. Autism is becoming so prevalent now, and yet all I know about it is the generalities from newspaper and magazine articles. This sounds like a great insight into what it’s really like.

RebeccaScaglione - Love at First Book
Guest

I will have to pick this up. I have only heard rave reviews and people are also dying to read it. I guess I am now included in that group!

Kya
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Wow, that sounds like an absolutely amazing book. I will certainly add it to my plan to read list.

DoingDewey
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Wow, this sounds incredible! I love that non-fiction can let us learn about experiences that are very different from our own.

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