As a fan of author Augusten Burroughs’ memoir Running with Scissors, I’ve always had a fascination with learning more about him and his odd upbringing. In Running with Scissors he discusses his older brother who was a bit of an oddity as a child. Later in life it’s discovered that his brother, John Elder, has a form of autism better known as Asperger’s. Look Me In the Eye is John Elder’s memoir about his life with this disease and how he overcame its limitations to find success in life.
Growing up in a childhood that would barely be considered habitable by most standards, John Elder Robinson traveled through childhood with a feeling of detachment and awkwardness. For all he knew, he just wanted to make the other kids like him. Unfortunately for him, however, the things that thought were completely acceptable happened to make the other kids view him as strange and awkward. Not letting this deter him, Robinson attempted to learn to change his behavior to suit his environment and view his social experiences objectively. These same analytical skills served him well later on in his life, as Robinson developed an aptitude for all things mechanical and eventually went on to design famous flaming guitars for KISS. After being diagnosed with Asperger’s at 40, Robinson looks back at his life with a new perspective and new insight into his life.
As someone who has grown up with a learning disability, I can relate to Robison’s depiction of society and their views on individuals that are different from the “mainstream”. When I was a child, I found that at times I felt like I needed to respond to the social clues around me instead of instinctively being able to mesh with my peers. Additionally, I was amazed by the fantastic amount of emotion that Robison was able to convey in his writing, all with a diagnosis that apparently prevents him from being able to do just that. His descriptions of his despair, anger, and longing as a child, his pride and joy in succeeding in his professional life, and especially his amazement at finding love and beginning a family were all fantastic to read. It’s not that people with Asperger’s are incapable of feeling; the lack of the ability to express these emotions doesn’t mean that they don’t feel each and every one of them. Robison’s ability to tell us what he felt in all of these particular situations in amazing detail is testament to his awesome talents as a writer and the wonderful life he has lived thus far.
The book is fabulously written, giving readers an insight into what it’s like for someone with Asperger’s. If you know someone who suffers from a form of autism I highly suggest giving this book a read; it might help you to understand what it’s like inside their mind, offering up a stronger relationship between you.
(Blogger Note: If Robison is ever doing a book signing or speaking engagement near you I HIGHLY recommend you go see him. I had the opportunity of seeing him speak and meeting him afterward at R.J. Julia in Madison, CT. He is one of the most interesting people I’ve ever heard speak before. Not only is he fascinating to listen to, but he is so kind and genuine.)
5 out of 5 Stars