Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Songs of the Gorilla Nation: My Journey Through Autism” as Want to Read:
Songs of the Gorilla Nation: My Journey Through Autism
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Songs of the Gorilla Nation: My Journey Through Autism

3.79  ·  Rating Details ·  939 Ratings  ·  99 Reviews
“This is a book about autism. Specifically, it is about my autism, which is both like and unlike other people’s autism. But just as much, it is a story about how I emerged from the darkness of it into the beauty of it.”

In this elegant and thought-provoking memoir, Dawn Prince-Hughes traces her personal growth from undiagnosed autism to the moment when, as a young woman, sh
Hardcover, 240 pages
Published March 9th 2004 by Harmony (first published January 1st 2004)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Songs of the Gorilla Nation, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Songs of the Gorilla Nation

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Nov 11, 2012 Molly rated it really liked it
I grew up knowing I was different, but, thanks to my classmates, my extent of understanding of myself was that I was a "freak." In eighth grade, I was diagnosed with Aspergers, but never really understood any of what that meant. In eleventh grade, I discovered this book in my school library. For the first time in my life, I finally understood who I was and WHY I was different. [return]Though we'll never meet, and you'll probably never read these words, thank you Dawn for helping me feel not so a ...more
May 06, 2009 Sue rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I found this book really remarkable. Dawn Prince-Hughes has a form of autism called Asperger's Syndrome, which is a less noticeable form of autism. You might know someone with Asperger's and merely think they are eccentric or sometimes uncommunicative, and barely sociable, fascinating in their detailed interest in something or other descriptions that can describe peculiarities.

She is a wonderful writer, and even if you don't think you are interested in autism, if you like memoir's, I very highl
Jun 23, 2007 Lobeck rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone, people who want to learn about autism
I couldn't put this book down. The author of the book and main character, Dawn Prince-Hughes, describes her experience of growing up autistic, which is an amazing mind-opener for those who have never experienced it. It is through observing gorillas at a zoo that she finally begins to understand human connection. This is a beautiful story about Prince-Hughes's life, and it has allowed me to understand autism more and accept it as simply a different way of being in the world.
I found it almost impossible to review this book straight away, because there aspects of it I strongly dislike and aspects that I find very valuable.

I think it is an important book: It gives a great glimpse into one person’s reality of coming of age with undefined high functioning autism. Most importantly, it describes a strategy for overcoming autistic isolation. Not a cure but a way to kick start the positive feedback loop of social relationships that social learning requires in order to happe
Nov 13, 2013 Robert rated it really liked it
Song of the Gorilla Nation by Dawn Prince-Hughes is not just about what is like to be a person with Asperger’s Syndrome whose disability led to her become a homeless street kid whose falling in love with gorillas freed her soul so that she could become a university instructor of anthropology, a loving spouse, and a mom. That alone would make it a fascinating read. It is a meditation about personhood, including parenthood, about valuing uniqueness and not letting ourselves exile and exploit fello ...more
Jul 23, 2010 Irene rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Wow. This is quite a book. The author has a remarkable tale to tell and she tells is beautifully. It is a story of growing up with undiagnosed autism (Asberger's Syndrome), of finding herself, of her work with apes. But it is so much more than that. She is a poet and wrote prolifically in her journals from an early age. She shares many poems in the course of telling her story. She is a survivor. She used the positive attributes of her autism to cope with the pain and confusion it caused as she s ...more
Jul 16, 2010 Ruthie rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoirs
This is a really cool view into the mind of an autistic woman. I love that she gives you a new perspective on the thought processes of someone with Asperger's Syndrome than what you hear about in the media. I also loved her relationship with the gorillas and I definitely think of them differently now.

I happened upon this book when I was desperate for something to read while on vacation because the books I was finding in hostels were totally lame and the one I brought just wasn't capturing my att
Oct 04, 2008 Lindsay rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: autistics, friends/family of autistics, animal lovers
Songs of the Gorilla Nation is a must-read for anyone who thinks they *know* what autism is, or who thinks there is a clear dividing line between human and animal. It's the story of Dawn Prince-Hughes's journey "from the darkness of autism into (its) beauty," with a group of gorillas helping her along the way. It's fascinating to see Prince-Hughes explain why she was able to have meaningful interactions with the gorillas at a time when she couldn't yet handle human contact. Her testimony here is ...more
Steph (loves water)
Mar 10, 2016 Steph (loves water) rated it it was amazing
FABULOUS, incredible must-read for anyone who knows someone who has a family member or friend on the Autism spectrum, is interested in conservation of endangered animals, or spirituality. Dr. Prince-Hughes writes an eloquent, honest memoir that puts to rest the idea that ASD folks are "different, stupid, weird, or wrong" and brings hope for a better future in which our society treats each other with dignity and respect.

I could not put this book down. I've learned so much and am forever grateful
Amy Alstrum
Nov 19, 2013 Amy Alstrum rated it it was amazing
This book was beautiful and so very meaningful to me. If you don't understand or have experience with autism, you may find the writing style a bit difficult to follow, but the author's voice and experiences are so worth any effort you may put in to understand her.
Leanna Manuel
Apr 21, 2013 Leanna Manuel rated it it was amazing
Shelves: psychology
While traveling to Arizona a while back I read Songs of the Gorilla Nation: My Journey Through Autism by Dawn Prince-Hughes, Ph.D. As the secondary title indicates, this is a first-hand account of autism. The author offers a vivid and insightful account of Asperger's Syndrome.

She was diagnosed rather late in her life, after a childhood punctuated by misunderstanding and isolation. Fortunately, she was able to learn about human socialization and relationships through her keen observation of goril
Aug 18, 2016 rosamund rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: animals, disability, lgbt
I heard about this several years ago: I spoke to my friend about autism, and she suggested this book as she knows I have an interest in great apes as well, and this book combines the two subjects. I did not seek it out until just now: I wish I had read it sooner.

Prince-Hughes writes a lot about captive gorillas and their rights to personhood. I love reading about her close observation of the gorillas, the unique insight they gave her into her self, and how she developed such strong relationships
Carol Meyer
Nov 18, 2015 Carol Meyer rated it really liked it
Shelves: autism
An odd, wonderful book. Dr. Prince-Hughes' journey from childhood through her eventual success as a primate researcher is at times painful as she documents bullying and assaults from her teachers and classmates, substance abuse, homelessness, and experience in the sex trade. It is difficult to read as an obviously talented and intelligent individual is so misused by those who do not understand her and those she does not understand

Her experience with watching gorillas in the zoo started her on th
Sep 20, 2008 Laura rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This book was mildly interesting, but very slow and just wasn't keeping my attention. And to be fair I started reading the Twilight series half way through this book and then just couldn't get back into it, it couldn't compete with how awesome and intense the Twilight series was and so I gave it one more shot after those 4 books and then just gave up. Sadly I never actually finished reading it. I work with autistic children daily so I thought this would be an interesting book, but being that it ...more
Apr 21, 2013 Naomi rated it it was amazing
3.31.13 I love this book so much. I have a client, an adult woman with autism, and her biggest desire is to find her people and to connect with them in ways meaningful to her. She even made it one of her ISP goals. This book is making me feel so much heartache and joy simultaneously, and some lightbulbs are going off for me as well. I am grateful for Dawn Prince-Hughes for writing this book. I also acknowledge her message that this is her autism story and am striving to not make inaccurate gener ...more
Andrea Grima
Jun 17, 2012 Andrea Grima rated it it was amazing
This is the story of journey from childhood to adulthood, however it has a detailed and insightful biography of a lady with Asperger's Syndrome. I was gripped by this book as I have worked with children and have known adults who have Asperger's. it is a very frank and interesting story of Dawn Hughs who describes actions, thoughts and experiences that recognise of the people I have worked with. Her passion and understanding for gorillas alone is a fascinating read and to add to that the insight ...more
Mary Whisner
Not diagnosed with Asberger's Syndrome until her late 30s, the author had a childhood that was often painful -- but also sensitive to beauty. She left school and family at 16 and spent years wandering the country, often living on the streets. She landed in Seattle and, while working as an exotic dancer, began visiting the Woodland Park Zoo, eventually getting a job there. Her bonds with the gorillas opened her up to relationships with a primate species that had always baffled her: humans. A well ...more
Marcus Clark
Dec 10, 2014 Marcus Clark rated it really liked it
This is an interesting autobiography of a woman with Asperger's Syndrome, and how her relationship with gorillas eased her acceptance into human society. Asperger's was only classified as a dis-ability in 1994 and so we have the situation of people like Susan Boyle who were not classified until three years ago. That is they lived for 51 years, aware that something was dreadfully wrong with them, but they did not know what it was, nor did anyone else.

Autistic people are often described as "on the
This unusual memoir is ultimately a love story that crosses the boundaries of labels, convention, and expectation; of self and solitude and revelation.
Her work with gorillas not only allowed her a venue for healing, but also, through her academic career, has important implications for us all.
Jan 15, 2008 Celia rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
This was an interesting memoir - on one hand, it was an story of the author coming to terms with her autism through her work with gorillas, and feeling more comfortable in the way she interacts with people. She makes a good argument for people with autism seeing the world differently, and not in a way that needs to be "fixed".

The second half of the book seems to concentrate much more on Dawn's work with the gorilla "nation", as she terms it (she refers to the "gorilla man", the "chimpanzee woma
Feb 17, 2016 Pam rated it really liked it
Dawn Prince-Hughes’ incredible life story is a tragic one despite ending well. Without the support from her family and educators, she almost was lost forever and doomed to homelessness and sexual exploitation. As detractors have noted, yes this book wanders a bit, it deals with very uncomfortable issues, and is too detailed in many places. Likewise, she fails to explain much about her home life and many years are lost in the narrative but that is what our memories are like and it is what the aut ...more
May 12, 2015 Mom rated it liked it
In this memoir, Dawn Prince-Hughes describes her childhood as an undiagnosed autistic girl, her difficult adolescence, her eventual diagnosis (at 37) as having Asperger's, and her current life as a mother and an anthropologist.

As a child with undiagnosed autism, unable to understand human emotions or social interactions, Dawn was isolated and bullied. In early adulthood, she got a job at a zoo and as she observed/studied gorilla behavior, she finally began to understand human relationships. The
Ellis Amdur
Jan 11, 2015 Ellis Amdur rated it really liked it
Lyrically written book by a woman who has Asperger’s Syndrome (so-called high-functioning autism). She is intellectually brilliant, and yet, finds many aspects of life among humans to be overwhelming. This is a life-story, where she describes becoming “socialized” through contact with gorillas at the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, Washington. She is currently an anthropologist, and an advocate for the position that the “great apes” are, in fact, human in all the ways we define ourselves. There ar ...more
Sep 26, 2015 Gaby rated it liked it
I am actually doing a double-major Biological Anthropology and Cognitive Science and received my own autism diagnosis in 2013, after many years of struggling. I came across this book by chance in the library and overwhelmed doesn't begin to describe my own emotions while reading. Some of the horrific descriptions the author wrote in regarding academic struggles, bullying (especially by teachers), depression, anxiety, isolation, etc. could very well have been written by me (or any autistic adult ...more
Oct 08, 2011 C rated it it was amazing
This is excellent, but at the same time, heartbreaking. Prince-Hughes is eloquent writer, the book is insightful and educational and I strongly recommend it for anyone who is interested in learning more about the autistic perspective of the world.

We have a tendency to lump people into categories when we don't know what is "wrong" with them, without looking for what they may have to offer, or seeing the person beneath the unfamiliar mannerisms or "shell." This book, along with Temple Grandin's w
Sep 19, 2007 Tes rated it really liked it
This is a surprisingly gentle book given that the author is describing some very disturbing experiences (actually a very disturbed life). It took me till the end to see the whole pattern of her writing and her story. She is an extremely intelligent & functional autistic woman who attributes her survival & her functioning to the gorillas she worked with. That may be true, but it is apparent that what really saved her is her ability to write, as well as her own desire to understand her dis ...more
Alice B.
Apr 29, 2008 Alice B. rated it liked it
Roads Less Traveled Project:

"Songs of the Gorilla Nation" wasn't interesting in sense that it contained almost no adventure. All of the stories about Dawn's life were obviously recalled in the past (her writing sounded like it was a history rather than a story about now). But I really liked it. A lot of people I know said it was boring but I actually round this riveting.

Being able to see the way that somoeone with Asbergers views the world and human existence was a really interesting way to thi
Dec 15, 2008 Kristin rated it liked it
Of all the books I've read so far about Asperger's, this comes the closest to describing some of my daughter's issues, so it was really helpful to glean that insight into how - and why - she thinks as she does. But, I would LOVE to read an autobiographical book where the person was dx w/Asperger's and had parents who were "with it!" I need a story about what happens when parents are aware and involved and do everything they can to get the help their child needs. 'Cause I want to know what happen ...more
Sep 20, 2010 Laurie rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I really liked the anecdotal explanations the offer shared regarding how it has been to have autism. I learned a lot from her ability to share some personal experiences. That being said, I really felt that in the beginning of the book, she shared too much of a personal nature. I did a fair amount of skimming through some sections. I also found myself quite disinterested in the chapters on her work with gorillas - these parts were pretty dry. Despite these issues, I still found myself wanting to ...more
Aug 27, 2015 Lauren rated it liked it
This book inspired and depressed me at the same time. The author was very candid on what her life is like with Aspergers (though she wasn't diagnoses until she was an adult) and it made me wonder what my son is going/will go through. The author found relief when she finally found a partner who would explain people and their reactions to her. She literally couldn't read social cues in the people around her. And then she spoke about the constant pressure to act and appear normal, to be able to fit ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Excellent book! 1 6 Feb 02, 2009 12:09PM  
  • Somebody Somewhere: Breaking Free from the World of Autism
  • Not Even Wrong: Adventures in Autism
  • How Can I Talk If My Lips Don't Move: Inside My Autistic Mind
  • Unstrange Minds: Remapping the World of Autism
  • Reasonable People
  • There's a Boy in Here: Emerging from the Bonds of Autism
  • Send in the Idiots: Stories from the Other Side of Autism
  • Pretending to Be Normal: Living with Asperger's Syndrome
  • Elijah's Cup: A Family's Journey into the Community and Culture of High-functioning Autism and Asperger's Syndrome (Revised edition)
  • Aspergirls: Empowering Females with Asperger Syndrome
  • The Boy Who Loved Windows: Opening The Heart And Mind Of A Child Threatened With Autism
  • George and Sam
  • Mozart and the Whale: An Asperger's Love Story
  • Now I See the Moon: A Mother, a Son, a Miracle
  • Freaks, Geeks and Aspergers Syndrome: A User Guide to Adolescence
  • Emergence: Labeled Autistic
  • Exiting Nirvana: A Daughter's Life with Autism
  • Asperger's From the Inside Out: A Supportive and Practical Guide for Anyone with Asperger's Syndrome

Share This Book