Book Review: Pretending To Be Normal

pretending to be normal aspergerPretending To Be Normal (Expanded Edition)
by Liane Holliday Willey
190 pages
Published 2014

First off, once again this is an older book that uses the term Asperger’s throughout. The book was originally published in 1999, but a few more chapters were added and it was republished in 2014.

Honestly I found it a little hard to get through. Unlike Nerdy, Shy, and Socially Inappropriate, it was pretty much entirely memoir, and didn’t really speak to the reader as if trying to have a conversation at all. It just told Willey’s story. Which is fine, it just wasn’t what I was expecting after reading Nerdy. The appendices are the only place that have tips and tricks for dealing with the neurotypical world as an autistic person, but there wasn’t really anything new or unique there.

I also just don’t think I like her writing style as much as I did the writing style in Nerdy, but that’s such a personal thing. It’s hard to make a recommendation based on that. Autistic people vary so widely in where their strengths and weaknesses are that it’s difficult to say which books will be useful to which people, in general.

So – it’s worth reading for yet another viewpoint on being autistic, and there are several parts on parenting as an autistic woman, so autistic parents might get more use out of the book than I did, as a childless spouse of an autistic man. But I personally did not like it nearly as much as Nerdy or The Journal of Best Practices.

From the cover of Pretending To Be Normal:

Compelling and witty, Liane Holliday Willey’s account of growing to adulthood as an undiagnosed ‘Aspie’ has been read by thousands of people on and off the autism spectrum since it was first published in 1999. Bringing her story up to date, including her diagnosis as an adult, and reflecting on the changes in attitude over 15 years, this expanded edition will continue to entertain (and inform) all those who would like to know a little more about how it feels to spend your life `pretending to be normal’.

Library Loot Wednesday!

as the crow fliesI only got a few books this week – As The Crow Flies, a graphic novel about a queer black girl at a Christian summer camp that I’ve been dying to read because the art looks amazing, and three books about Asperger’s Syndrome.

Two of the AS books I actually plucked off the Free shelf in the front entryway; I happened to notice them as I walked by to return a few books and pick up holds. They’re both geared towards children and young readers, so I don’t know how applicable they all cats have asperger syndromewill be for my husband and I, but I thought I’d give them a read through, and maybe give them away here in the blog if anyone is interested in them! The third is actually part of a series – all cats have asperger syndrome, all dogs have adhd, and all birds have anxiety. It’s pretty cute, matching single sentences about AS traits with cute pictures of cats. Things like “An Asperger child often has exceptionally good hearing, and loud sounds and sudden movements may scare him” and “When people talk to him he may refuse to look at them.” Typical kitty traits! Unfortunately they use male pronouns throughout the book, effectively erasing autistic women and girls, who have a hard enough time getting diagnosed already! The author, as far as I can tell, isn’t on the spectrum herself, which always makes me immediately suspicious. It was published in 2006, so I can forgive the use of Asperger Syndrome instead of Autism Spectrum. It’s still a little disappointing though.

Probably a good thing I didn’t get much this week; I still have a lot to get through from the last few weeks!

Book Review: Queens of Geek

queens of geekQueens of Geek
by Jen Wilde
Contemporary YA
262 pages
Published 2017

THIS BOOK WAS GREAT. It was a fun, quick read, but it involved three BFFs, one of which is autistic with social anxiety, and her friends know this and are incredibly supportive. The second girl is openly bisexual. The third friend, the boy, is Hispanic. The three of them take an epic trip to a big Comicon in LA; the bisexual girl (Charlie) co-starred in a zombie movie, and is a popular Youtuber, so when she’s invited to the Con she drags her two BFFs with her. Once there, she meets an idol of hers, another Youtuber, and discovers that her idol has a crush on her! So while dealing with her douchebag ex (her co-star from the movie), the other Youtuber asks Charlie out, and the two girls start a romance.

Meanwhile, the autistic girl (Taylor) and the Hispanic boy (Jamie) have loved each other for ages but been too afraid to admit how they feel. Largely left on their own, because Charlie’s manager couldn’t get them VIP passes, they explore the Con, geeking out over things and meeting another autistic woman, a comic book artist who gives Taylor some amazing advice about being afraid but doing things anyway.

I really really loved this book. I loved seeing autistic characters treated by their peers as just regular people with quirks, like everyone has. Taylor’s friends support her when her brain freaks out, and make allowances for her needs, but don’t treat her like she’s disabled or fragile. I loved seeing how tight the bonds of friendship were between the three teens, and how excited for each other they were, even when good things happening meant less time to spend with each other.

This was just a really lovely, feel-good book with lots of minority representation, by an autistic author who knows what she’s talking about. This is one more book off my Autism Reading List, and my pick for a book about friendship from the Litsy Booked 2018 Challenge.

From the cover of Queens of Geek:

Charlie likes to stand out. She’s a vlogger and actress promoting her first movie at SupaCon, and this is her chance to show fans she’s over her public breakup with co-star Reese Ryan. When internet-famous cool-girl actress Alyssa Huntington arrives as a surprise guest, it seems Charlie’s long-time crush on her isn’t as one-sided as she thought.

Taylor likes to blend in. Her brain is wired differently, making her fear change. And there’s one thing in her life she knows will never change: her friendship with her best guy friend Jamie—no matter how much she may secretly want it to. But when she hears about a fan contest for her favorite fandom, she starts to rethink her rules on playing it safe.

Library Loot Wednesday!

the merry spinsterThe Merry Spinster finally made its way to me through the library system! It’s a collection of short fantasy stories and I’ve been quite eager to read it. The author also recently came out as trans, so this is part of my effort to read more inclusively! There’s apparently a lot about gender in the book, too.

tolstoy purple chairI also checked out Tolstoy and the Purple Chair, which is my PopSugar pick for “favorite color in the title.” It’s about a woman spending a year dedicated to reading, so I’m hopeful I’ll find something in here for another PopSugar prompt, “a book mentioned in another book.” Also, that chair on the cover? I WANT IT.

red clocks dystopiaRed Clocks finally arrived in my holds! I’ve been pretty excited about this one, but there were a lot of people in line ahead of me. It’s another feminist dystopia – I love those – this one set in a small Oregon fishing town, so – my home state! Abortion and in vitro fertilization are both illegal in this dystopia, and it follows the stories of women dealing with that.

pretending to be normal aspergerAnd one of the books off my Autism Reading List arrived from another library system – Pretending to be Normal – Living with Asperger’s Syndrome. This is the expanded version published in 2015.

women from another planet autismIn not-quite-library-loot, I also bought the Kindle version of Women From Another Planet? Our Lives in the Universe of Autism on the recommendation of Catana, who commented on my review of Nerdy, Shy, and Socially Inappropriate.

One of these days I’m going to gather some pictures of my library to show you guys my local branch. The librarians there are pretty awesome.

Book Review: Nerdy, Shy, and Socially Inappropriate

nerdy shy socially inappropriate asperger autismNerdy, Shy, and Socially Inappropriate: A User Guide to an Asperger Life
by Cynthia Kim
240 pages
Published 2014

I’ve been picking up books on Autism since we realized my husband was on the spectrum, in hopes of finding tools to help us manage daily life. He’s too busy with school and work to do much reading these days, so I’ve been doing the research and bringing it to him to discuss. It’s led to some enlightening conversations and we’ve both learned a lot about each other. Cynthia Kim’s blog was one I pored over and read parts of to him, and I finally got her book from my library.

One of the things I noticed most was she details social rules in ways I never would have thought to do – she has a list of seven very specific rules for eye contact, for example. As an allistic person, most of those rules are things I do instinctively, without even really knowing the reason for them. Like, in conversation, looking up or to the side means you’re thinking, looking down means you’re done talking. I read that to my husband and he jumped in, surprised, with “so THAT’S why I get interrupted so much!” I never would have thought to codify that into words, but it’s something I naturally do.

She talks about meltdowns vs shutdowns, which are things we’ve already learned the difference between with my husband, but we’re both eager for strategies to avoid, mitigate, and recover from them. She gave some strategies as places to start, but that’s hard to give general advice on as every autistic is so very different in that regard.

The chapter on alexithymia was really interesting. Alexithymia being an impairment in identifying and describing emotions. It leads to a lot of “Hey, are you okay?” “I don’t know.” “Well, how do you feel?” “I DON’T KNOW!” We’d already been introduced to this concept through her blog, but she expands on it in the book.

Another interesting (and applicable!) chapter was the one on executive dysfunction. (We joke that I am my husband’s personal assistant – I keep his calendar and remind him of important dates/events/homework due dates, and sometimes nudge him to do things if it seems he’s having trouble getting started.)

Kim uses the term Asperger’s in her writing (as well as autism), but Asperger’s has been rolled into the greater Autism Spectrum Disorder since 2013. Very recently there’s been some debate about the Asperger name, as it’s been revealed that Hans Asperger at least cooperated with the Nazis, and possibly was one himself. It’s still used commonly, though, and there is a large community built around being Aspies. Personally, I think using the Asperger term is a little too divisive – it’s basically the same as “high-functioning.” But. I’m allistic and my opinion on the matter isn’t the important one, so. We use autistic for my husband. (His choice, and when I asked his thoughts, he also thinks the Asperger term is divisive and not useful.) There’s a number of Twitter threads and articles on the subject of using or not using the Asperger term, and what it means to the community.

Overall, this was a really great book for learning about how autism affects day-to-day life, and gave us lots of talking points and words for things we didn’t have the vocabulary for. I’m looking forward to tackling the rest of my Autism Reading List.

From the cover of Nerdy, Shy, and Socially Inappropriate:

Cynthia Kim explores all the quirkyness of living with Asperger Syndrome (ASD) in this accessible, witty and honest guide looking from an insider perspective at some of the most challenging and intractable aspects of being autistic. Her own life presents many rich examples. From being labelled nerdy and shy as an undiagnosed child to redefining herself when diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome as an adult, she describes how her perspective shifted to understanding a previously confusing world and combines this with the results of extensive research to explore the ‘why’ of ASD traits. She explains how they impact on everything from self-care to holding down a job and offers typically practical and creative strategies to help manage them, including a section on the vestibular, sensory and social benefits of martial arts for people with autism.

Well known in the autism community and beyond for her popular blog, Musings of an Aspie, Cynthia Kim’s book is rich with personal anecdotes and useful advice. This intelligent insider guide will help adults with ASDs and their partners, family members, friends, and colleagues, but it also provides a fresh and witty window onto a different worldview.

Library Loot – April 18th, 2018

queens of geekI mentioned a couple of these yesterday in my Top Ten Books by Autistic Authors. Nerdy, Shy, and Socially Inappropriate, and Queens of Geek are both books by autistic authors that I’m reading for Autism Acceptance Month.

I picked up one more nonfiction book, The Alternative Autoimmune Cookbook. It’s by one half of the blogging team behind the AutoImmune Wellness website. I’m currently working alternative aip cookbookthrough the cookbook written by the other half, The Autoimmune Paleo Cookbook. I have Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, a condition in which my immune system goes haywire and attacks my thyroid. I’ve been on the AIP diet for two and a half weeks at this point, and the amount I’ve energy I’ve regained is astounding. I’m sleeping better, and haven’t had heartburn since I started. So I’m eager to crack the other book for more recipes.

sing unburied singFor fiction I picked up Sing, Unburied, Sing, one of the most popular novels last year. (I requested it in December, but there was a long line!) For my Canadian read I got The Young in One Another’s Arms – besides being Canadian, it’s also about alternative family structures. My last book this week is To Kill A Kingdom, a young adult novel about predatory mermaids. I do like predatory mermaids!

It’s a pretty eclectic collection – but I am trying to branch out from my sci-fi/fantasy habit all the time!