Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger's
John Elder Robison
Robison writes about growing up and becoming an adult with Asperger's syndrome--even though that diagnosis didn't exist until he was an adult. As the title references, he struggles to make eye contact and friends. He struggles to relate to his peers in many painful ways. The text is part memoir (very bildungsroman) and also a collection of personal essays.
Robison writes about growing up, moving around, his parents addictions and mental health, his relationship with his brother (Augusten Burroughs), and his troubled relationship with school and academics. Once Robison drops out of high school, the text is much more experience based. For example, Robison spends a few years working for KISS and creating many of on-stage pyrotechnics for the band. From there he gets a "real job", gets married, and has a son. The text wraps up with the creation of a successful business by Robison and a renewed relationship with his dying father.
As the speaker, main character, and author, Robison is definitely my favorite. While his narratives all speak to his experience as someone with Asperger's, I sometimes forgot that was the purpose of the work. I really enjoyed immersing myself in his world and his quirks.
Broadly, this text reminded me to explore more non-fiction. Although I love devouring a good novel, sometimes a personal memoir or set of essays can provide a much needed perspective switch.
Before reading Look Me in the Eye, I was already familiar with the struggles someone with Asperger's syndrome has with empathy. I enjoyed returning to (im)proper displays of empathy by Robison throughout the text. It made me think about in which situations do I have trouble with empathy. I was also reading this within the context of multiple mass shootings in the US which led me to wonder about our empathy for fellow citizens, especially those with a different skin color, sexual orientation, etc.
"As a logical thinker, I cannot help thinking, based on the evidence, that many people who exhibit dramatic reactions to bad news involving strangers are hypocrites. That troubles me. People like that hear bad news from across the words, and they burst into wails and tears as though their own children have just been run over by a bus." -p32
"The truth was, I had no idea how to vacation. This was my first trip far from home with anyone besides my family. I had no money and there was hardly anything for me to do. One thing I learned that trip was: Bring money!" -p115
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
FYI: I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for this honest review. All opinions are my own.