By Anand Holla
Naoki Higashida was all of 13 when he wrote this thought-stirring book. The Reason I Jump provides a unique insight into “the often baffling behaviour of autistic children”. Qatar National Library (QNL) will be holding a book discussion of Higashida’s fascinating work next month.
The book discussion, which will be conducted in English, is slated for March 8, from 7pm to 8:30pm, at Al-Khor Hall, Education City Clubhouse. Having been popular in Japan ever since it was published in 2007, The Reason I Jump uses a question and answer format to explain things such as why the author talks loudly or repeats the same questions, what causes him to have panic attacks, and why he likes to jump. Higashida had written the book by spelling out words on a Japanese alphabet letter board.
“This remarkable book provides a rare insight into the often baffling behaviour of autistic children. Using a question and answer format, Naoki explains things like why he talks loudly or repeats the same questions, what causes him to have panic attacks and why he likes to jump,” QNL says about the book.
Through his memoir, Higashida shows the way he thinks and feels about his world – other people, nature, time and beauty, and himself. Abundantly proving that people with autism do possess imagination, humour and empathy, he also makes clear how badly they need our compassion, patience and understanding, says the summary of the book. “David Mitchell and his wife have translated Naoki’s book so that it might help others dealing with autism and generally illuminate a little-understood condition. It gives us an exceptional chance to enter the mind of another and see the world from a strange and fascinating perspective.”
In his review of the book, Ned Denny wrote in The Guardian, “What sets this book apart from the reams of professional theorising on autism is the fact that it is written by an autistic, and a child to boot. Its short, question-headed chapters aim to disclose the 13-year-old author’s ‘inner self’, to make people ‘understand what we really are, and what we’re going through’.”
To those keen on attending the book discussion – you can RSVP to Maryam Maarafeya at: [email protected] – QNL recommends reading the book beforehand; copies are available at the local bookstores.
“Higashida also shows the way he thinks and feels about his world – other people, nature, time and beauty – and himself. Abundantly proving that people with autism do possess imagination, humour and empathy, he also makes clear how badly they need our compassion, patience and understanding,” says QNL, about the book.
In the section titled ‘Why Do You Like Being in the Water?’, for instance, Higashida explains that “we are a different kind of human, born with primeval senses”. He says that “when we look at nature, we receive a sort of permission to be alive in this world, and our entire bodies get recharged”. Towards the end of the book, Higashida writes: “I think that people with autism are born outside the regime of civilisation… [in which] a deep sense of crisis exists… Autism has somehow arisen out of this… if, by our being here, we could help the people of the world remember what truly matters for the Earth, that would give us a quiet pleasure.”
On his website, James Clear neatly puts together bits of summary using quotes from the book: “When you see an object, it seems that you see it as an entire thing first, and only afterwards do its details follow on. But for people with autism, the details jump straight out at us first of all, and then only gradually, detail by detail, does the whole image float up into focus.”
“On our own we simply don’t know how to get things done the same way you do things. But, like everyone else, we want to do the best we possibly can. When we sense you’ve given up on us, it makes us feel miserable. So please keep helping us, through to the end,” Clear points out in another bit of summary, also throwing light on gems such as, “True compassion is about not bruising the other person’s self-respect,” and “Everybody has a heart that can be touched by something.”
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