Review: The Reason I Jump by Naoki Higashida

Author: Naoki Higashida
Title: The Reason I Jump
Format/Source: Hardcover/Library
Published: August 2013
Publisher: Random House
Length: 176 pages
Genre: Non-fiction question and answer
Why I Read: Saw it at the bookstore, thought it would be interesting 
Read If You’re: Interested in learning about autism from a person with autism’s perspective
Rating:  ★★★ [ratings guide]
Links: GoodReadsChapters | Amazon 

There seems to be a lot of suspicion surrounding this book as to whether it could actually have been written by a 13 year old with autism, or how much David Mitchell embellished the translation. I approached the book with some skepticism, but now that I’ve read I don’t think there’s any reason to be suspect of Higashida’s writing. Yes, I think there /could/ be some embellishment but I also think that it’s not unreasonable to believe a thirteen year old wrote this text. Now, controversy aside…

I found this book very heartbreaking at times. Many times Higashida writes about how he knows he can make situations difficult for people and how he hates himself for it, but he still very much wishes for people not to give up on him. This must be a terrible feeling for someone who cannot communicate with others in the generally expected and accepted ways. Yes, it can be difficult for a non-autistic person to engage with an autistic person – but it is important to recognize the person with autism is very much a person, just like someone without autism!

The above paragraph brings me to another point – how Higashida addresses his audience. He uses the plural you, presumably to address an audience of non-autistic people who have many questions about what it’s like to have autism. I’m not sure if there’s a better way to address these questions, given the nature of the book. but sometimes it does feel a bit presumptuous of him to make statements like “One of the biggest misunderstandings you have about us is your belief that our feelings aren’t as subtle and complex as yours.” (109) He also uses ‘we’ to speak for all autistic people which I think is more problematic than how he addresses his audience. Overall, his pronoun use is a relatively minor issue with the book, and it may possibly just be attributed to his age or his editor or something but it is a noticeable aspect of the narration that might bother some people more than most.p

The Bottom Line: Definitely check this book out if you any interest in what it might be like to have autism – but remember that it’s just one teen’s account.

  • Good note at the bottom about it being just one autistic person's account. I am actually an english teacher for children (and tweens) with autism, and I appreciate this book simply because it spreads awareness. I would like to believe that the words are coming straight from the boy, but like you said who knows? Good review.

  • Thank-you! I wonder now what the original text reads like, and what the Japanese audience reaction was to the book. I'm interested now in reading other narratives by people with autism – are you familiar with any? (I've added Temple Grandin's book to my TBR list.)

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