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

 

14 thoughts on “Review: The Reason I Jump by Naoki Higashida

  1. 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 rude, unhelpful and dismissive – it stops me making assumptions. There isn’t really anything more damaging than ignorance.” — I have to admit that I’m one of those people who’d rather avoid people with learning disabilities than face them and treat them like someone normal. And I think that’s my biggest problem: I judge too much. Does this person look weird? If so — I’d rather not talk to them. Does this person seem different? Not talking to them either. Does this person think like their age? Then I’d really want to stay away. It’s horrible, because many of us have grown up in societies that tell us that people with special needs are different, and so should be treated differently from us. And I can be cruel in so many ways I may not realize, while others might.

    Another aspect of the book that really pulls me in is how emotional it sounds. I know several people whose child has autism, and let me tell you, I have no idea how to act around them. Do they understand what I’m saying? Do they care? See, I have yet another awful mindset about special people like them: I tend to think that they can’t understand me, so they don’t feel anything. And the fact that they always have this faraway look in their eyes, like they’re floating in a whole new universe, only reinforces that. And then I read your review and how Naoki proves me otherwise, and shows that even people like him do feel as much as people like us.

    That quote at the end, too. I can’t help but feel a little ashamed of myself right now for being so horrible. I may not say anything offending out loud, but it’s the thought that matters. So thank you for bringing this book to my attention, Alice! Otherwise I wouldn’t have even given it a second thought, because I don’t usually read books that fall into these genres. But if I was able to learn this much just from your review alone, think of what the book will do. I’ll definitely consider reading this. Brilliant review!

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    1. I used to be like that too – very avoidant, and I think it is a general lack of education. Like you pointed out we’ve grown up in societies where the difference is seen to be negative. My main worry used to be that I would offend someone who had a disability or learning difficulty, but if I am they’ll tell me and I’ll stop, I just can’t be patronising.

      It’s so emotional, you really connect to Naoki! I think you would really enjoy this book. I’m really glad you enjoyed the review, I was worried it would seem patronising.

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  2. 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.

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    1. I think I might do that now, the odd bits I find out just tend to be from the fandom people on the spectrum on Tumblr. It really is such a lovely book.

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  3. 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.

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    1. And that is definitely what it is. Some questions have a more detailed answer than others, but considering he is describing his world to people who can’t necessarily comprehend it, he does a brilliant job.

      Like

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