Becoming: Autism Style

I am a reader. At three years old I surprised my parents by reading full sentences out of nowhere, and the rest was history. These days, ebooks from the library fuel my need to read. The only downside to library books is that new or popular books can take months to come in.

I waited fifteen weeks for Michelle Obama’s book, Becoming. It took me a while to get through (thank you midterms), but I was really happy about a couple of things. One, although she spells it differently than me, her nickname is Meesh/Miche too. Guys, I’ve got a FLOTUS nickname! Secondly, there’s always the worry when you learn a lot about someone that it will ruin them for you, but I can confidently state that I still want to be Michelle Obama when I grow up.

Towards the end of the book, she was talking about Barack, and she said: “being president doesn’t change who you are, it reveals who you are.”

I immediately recognized that this doesn’t only apply to presidents. My brain went straight to “diagnosis doesn’t change who you are, it reveals who you are.” And that makes sense, right? I know that when I was diagnosed with Autism, it didn’t turn me into an entirely different Meesh. It didn’t even alter the Meesh that I was. It just showed parts of who I was in a new light.

And I think that this was a fantastic thing. Because I could have looked at some of my personality traits that I now knew to be autistic, and suppressed them. I could have taken that attitude of ‘well, I might not have a choice in having autism, but I have a choice what people see of me.’ I could have. I think it might have killed me.

Instead, I celebrated. I am how I am for a reason. And I am not alone, there are others like me. I put my money behind the fact that the people who cared about me would keep caring about me. I never expected that strangers on the internet might accept me and care about me too.

This is not to say that I don’t get upset or frustrated. Hell, I get frustrated every day. Some days the world seems impossibly unfair, and it seems like everyone else can do things more easily than me. It seems like I’ll never achieve my goals. Some days I’m not sure what my truth is, and that hurts.

In one of the last chapters of Becoming, Michelle writes

“So many of us go through life with our stories hidden, feeling ashamed or afraid when our whole truth doesn’t live up to some established ideal. We grow up with messages that tell us that there’s only one way to be American—that if our skin is dark or our hips are wide, if we don’t experience love in a particular way, if we speak another language or come from another country, then we don’t belong. That is, until someone dares to start telling that story differently.”

I don’t particularly care how American I am, but what struck me here was that even if I feel like people can’t see the real me, or that I’m not living up to expectations (usually ones that I’ve set for myself), it’s ok, because there’s one thing that I know I want.

I want to tell the story differently. I want to show people that there are many ways to be autistic, and that none of them are tragic. Autism doesn’t mean life is over, it means life is different. And no matter what anyone says, we all still belong.

Top 10 Books I’ve Read This Year

So I know that the year isn’t over yet, but something else is- I hit my reading goal for the year! I started out this year doing the 52 in 52 challenge, which is where you set a goal to read 52 books (one a week) in 52 weeks. Now, I hit 52 books in June, and I upped my goal to 78 books, which comes out to about 1.5 books a week, and this week I finished book #78! Now of course this doesn’t mean I’m going to stop reading, but it’s a nice feeling to have hit a concrete goal.

My favorite books from this year have been all over the place, genre wise. I am usually drawn to science fiction and fantasy, but to make this challenge more interesting, I pushed myself to read books that I might not have necessarily picked otherwise. Genres like Biography, and Classics, and Literary Fiction. And it worked great! I’ve already started thinking about what new categories I can add to next years challenge.

So, here are my faves from this year. I reviewed and gave most of them 5 stars on Goodreads, which is a good indications of how much I liked them, given that I tend to get stressed out when writing reviews. In general I only review books I really loved, or really hated.

So I’m going to try and do something that’s really hard for me- I’m not going to be long winded. So, if any of these descriptions go over 4 sentences, feel free to publicly shame me in the comments.

  1. A Man Called Ove: A theme that ran through this years book choices for me was grief, and A Man Called Ove managed to treat the subject with tenderness or with humor. Ove is a grumpy old man who’s recently lost his job and his wife, and all the wants is for everyone to leave him alone so he can kill himself in peace. Did I laugh- yeah, did I cry- oh yeah, have I now read almost everything that Fredrik Backman has ever written- absolutely, and that’s one of the highest praises I know of.
  2. The Song of Achilles: Did you have read Greek Mythology in school? And if you did, did it come off as being super gay? If so, then The Song of Achilles is the right LGBT+ coming of age novel for you! This is yet another grief themed book that treats love gently and beautifully, and tells an interesting side of the Helen of Troy story.
  3. The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet: I loved this book, mostly because it talked about non sci-fi in a sci-fi setting. I mean c’mon, what science fiction story discusses pronouns, and AI romance, and space autism? I’ve found in my life that sci-fi page turners are rare, but this was a fast and fun read, while will having excitement and emotion. It’s always a good sign when I don’t want a book to end, but I’m also impatient to get to the sequel.
  4. East of Eden: So here’s the deal- I read Steinbeck in school (Of Mice and Men, and The Pearl, if I remember correctly) and I was never a fan. But I made myself a goal to read more “classics” this year, and I swear the internet has a hard on for East of Eden, so I figured why not. It took more than a hundred pages to get into the story, and even when though I liked the story, I only rated it 4 stars on Goodreads. And then I thought about it constantly, for a whole week, so I finally gave in, went back, and rated it 5 stars, so my advice for you is to stick it out, love Lee, and just accept that it’ll take awhile to sink in.
  5. A Monster Calls: Once upon a time, there a boy whose mother was dying, and one day a monster came out of the woods and told the boy that he knew the boy’s greatest wish, and if the boy could figure out what his desire was, then the monster would grant it. A Monster Calls is a beautiful story about love and grief, something I’ve been struggling with for the last few years, and when I finished this book, I felt a weight lifted. This book is short, and may look like a kids book, but it definitely is not. If you can, read the illustrated version, it’s worth it.
  6. The Rosie Project: This book was a huge surprise for me, all I knew that it was a “funny love story”, and I think that I know why- it’s because neurotypical people were the ones writing the reviews. Nowhere in the synopsis or the reviews was autism mentioned, but within the first few chapters I knew that the protagonist and I had a lot in common. I never get to read about people like me, and never in the tender way that the author writes about Don. When I finished, I made my wife read the book, so I could ask her if she sees me in the loving way that the book shows, and she said yes!
  7. The Hate U Give: I think that I’ve mention that I’m from St. Louis, which after Michael Brown’s death in Ferguson, MO (which is in North St. Louis) became an important location for the Black Lives Matter movement. I wasn’t a teenager at the time, but I was (am?) a Biracial person living in a city with an embarrassing amount of police corruption and violence. When I finished this book, I declared that it should be required for protesters coming into cities, because it makes you think about what can happen if you’re not responsible, if you jump to conclusions, or don’t respect the home communities. It made me think, in a good way- and I’m always happy about that
  8. The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August: Imagine if, as a child, you learned that you have been reincarnated, but instead of coming back as something awesome like a narwhal or a corgi, instead, you came back as you- over and over and over. I enjoyed The First Fifteen Lives- it read with the ease of a thriller, the page-turned quality of a thriller, but I didn’t feel kind of empty at the end of it. At the beginning I thought that Harry living his love over and over again might get old, but the author skillfully manages to avoid that. Lastly, the antagonist is Moriarty-like in the best possible way, which is hard.
  9. I Contain Multitudes : This is my only non-fiction book that made it onto my Top 10 this year, which is kind of unusual, but luckily, I Contain Multitudes totally holds its own. Even if I wasn’t someone with a crappy digestive system (and I totally am, you might even say that it’s shitty) the author is able to take a subject like gut bacteria and manages to produce a book that’s fun and interesting and easy to read. I promise, you’ll never take your biome for granted again!
  10. The Fifth Season: This book is difficult to talk about, because almost anything I can say might be a spoiler. What I can say is this- The trilogy that this book is part of made history for being the first trilogy to have each book in it to win a Hugo Award, which is s big deal in the fantasy world. The Fifth Season, sort of like …Long Angry Planet finds a way to talk about important real life things in a fantasy setting. Towards the end of the book I was literally getting goosebumps, that’s how awesome this book is.

So here they are, my favorites from this year! My to-read list is out of control (911 books and counting), but I’d still love to hear any favorites that you have! Also, if you’re a Goodreads user, you can find me here, if you want to connect!

6 Word Stories pt. 17

So as you might have guessed, the saga to figure what’s causing me so much trouble with my hip continues. My doctor is confident that it’s some sort of nerve issue, but we can’t seem to figure out what’s wrong. I have an appointment with a nerve surgeon next week, and while I’m not excited about the idea of surgery if it will help the pain, I’m open to it.

  • More doctors, less answer. In pain.
  • Reading is my break from life.
  • Friends who get it are irreplaceable.
  • Does anyone find positive feedback overwhelming?
  • Singing Christmas Carols is so stimmy!
  • Board games make great special interests.
  • I find celebrating my birthday uncomfortable.

My birthday is coming up next week (check back on Monday for a Very Special Birthday Post!), and I’m never sure how to feel about it. I’m generally uncomfortable with celebrating it because I don’t like being the center of attention, but since it’s the big 3-0, I decided to have some fun with some close friends. I’m trying to stay open, but I’ll let you know how it goes next week!