the rea­son i jump: one Boy’s voice From the si­lence of autism

Naoki Hi­gashida (trans­lated by LA Yoshida, in­tro­duced by David Mitchell) Ran­dom House

NZ Today - - ON BOOKS -

Naoki Hi­gashida wrote this book when he was 13. It's his med­i­ta­tion on his life – he suf­fers from autism, though to say he suf­fers is to play into the stereo­types he dis­misses via a thought­ful, dream-like ex­pla­na­tion of the chal­lenges that make up his world.

The au­thor David Mitchell in­tro­duces this English-lan­guage trans­la­tion of Hi­gashida's part­mem­oir/part-text­book; an evo­ca­tion of a be­hind-the-scenes/in­side-thema­chine This Is My Life. The book brought spir­i­tual aid and so­lace to Mitchell and his wife; par­ents of an autis­tic child. They set about cre­at­ing this trans­la­tion to share the work with oth­ers. There's a strange pre­science to it all too, given Mitchell ex­plored his own bat­tle with stam­mer­ing via the 13 year old nar­ra­tor of his novel, Black Swan Green (writ­ten right around the time that The Rea­son I Jump was penned).

Hi­gashida in­cludes short prayer-like sto­ries and di­ary-styled en­tries but for the most part this slim vol­ume plays out as an­swers to a se­ries of ques­tions. Each chap­ter head­ing is a ques­tion – a myth that Hi­gashida then sets about bust­ing.

He writes beau­ti­fully – at times there's grace and naive charm as well as a deep philo­soph­i­cal fore­thought. In as­sess­ing why autis­tic peo­ple like be­ing in wa­ter he says “we are a dif­fer­ent kind of hu­man, born with primeval senses”. He goes on to ex­plain that “when we look at na­ture, we re­ceive a sort of per­mis­sion to be alive in this world, and our en­tire bod­ies get recharged”.

To read this book as a par­ent is to be fore­warned/fore­armed I guess, there would al­most be some­thing un­set­tling about it if it weren't for the hu­mour and mat­ter of fact­ness of Hi­gashida's prose. There's some­thing sparkling in this work, like the twin­kling of an eye; there's a deep pro­fun­dity. I get that it could be read as a self-help styled book, though for car­ers/fam­ily rather than for the af­flicted. I get that it could also be taken on as a se­ries of dream-like rever­ies, med­i­cal/psy­cho­log­i­cal prose-po­ems. But I also read it in the way that a page-turner of a thriller or the best bi­og­ra­phy has you gripped. I wanted, with each page, to know more. And found of course that I did. I was let into Hi­gashida's world. A re­mark­able world.

Bril­liantly he un­packs the con­fus­ing world that he lives in and the con­fused world that rushes to wrap him in cot­ton wool, point­ing out – as Mitchell ex­pounds too – that those with autism ac­tu­ally have an ex­cess of the qual­i­ties they are sup­posed to (ap­par­ently) lack. There is there­fore hy­per­sen­si­tiv­ity rather than in­sen­si­tiv­ity. It's a com­plex world for any of us. And this won­der­ful book helped me to un­der­stand my own place in this puz­zle as well as pro­vid­ing steps to­ward em­pa­thy for those that see things in a dif­fer­ent way al­to­gether.

Si­mon Sweet­man

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.