Songs of the Gorilla Nation: My Journey Through Autism
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Songs of the Gorilla Nation: My Journey Through Autism

3.79 of 5 stars 3.79  ·  rating details  ·  643 ratings  ·  82 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...more
Hardcover, 240 pages
Published March 9th 2004 by Harmony (first published January 1st 2004)
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Cheryl in CC NV
Another beautiful example of the genius that is all too often locked up inside people struggling with the challenges of Autism Spectrum Disorder. I love how the author uses the term "dis/ability" - that makes the point of the term "differently abled" more clear and more effectively. Books like this, and like The Mind Tree: A Miraculous Child Breaks the Silence of Autism, and anything by Temple Grandin, make it plain to us who are 'neurotypical' that people with autism are in many ways *more* - i...more
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...more
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...more
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
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
Oct 04, 2008 Lindsay rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  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
Jun 23, 2007 Lobeck rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  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.
Amy Alstrum
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.
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...more
Leanna Manuel
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...more
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
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...more
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
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...more
Andrea Grima
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
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
Celia Powell
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...more
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
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.
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...more
Susan Asplund
The author displays an unique flair for poetry and prose in her memoir regarding her journey through autism. She describes her interactions with a group of gorillas as opening herself to her own thoughts, feelings and social interactions with humans. She weaves her anthropological insights of the gorillas with her research into the culture of man. Excellent read and makes me want to read more by this author.
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 queues in the people around her. And then she spoke about the constant pressure to act and appear normal, to be able to f...more
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
Daniel Mcintyre
A humbling read. A fantastic insight into both autism and the nature of the Gorillas, and how closely we are all linked.
Very interesting book, written by a professor at WWU in WA that suffers from Asperger's Syndrome, she explains how an autistic person feels and thinks.
I found this book on accident and adored it. The author recounts how her work with gorillas helped her to recognize, investigate, and understand her own difficulties in communicating with humans. Her eventual diagnosis of autism allows her to see that her brain works differently than those w/out an autism spectrum experience, and to illuminate her past in that new light. Prince-Hughes eventual educational progress, long-term lesbian relationship, and parenthood made me shout with joy at the even...more
This is a beautiful memoir, and if you can slog through the occasional self-righteous passage and sub-par poems, you will be well rewarded to travel with Prince-Hughes on her journey. I'm not really an animal person, but even I was able to empathize with the gorillas in her story. And despite the title and the introduction, much of this book is not really about the Gorilla Nation. It will also interest people with autism (or those who work with them), women who have overcome adversity, LGBT peop...more
This book provides insight into how one woman experiences her (self)-diagnosis as someone with Asperger's syndrome, and one also learns a lot about the situation of gorillas in captivity. The author came to terms with her own behavior and personality through her work with gorillas. It leaves one wondering about the human personality traits defined as autistic, and it leaves one wondering about the morality of keeping intelligent emotionally sensitive animals in captivity. I was glad to learn tha...more
As the parent of 2 boys with Aspergers, I often find value in the memoirs and autobiographies of those who have turned their alternate processing of the world into a strength and who are sharing their successes with us. Unfortunately, I just couldn't get into Songs of the Gorilla Nation. I think it had as much to do with external things, because the first few chapters made me dwell too much on my own faults and inadequacies rather than being drawn into Dawn's success. So, I've decided to not fin...more
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Excellent book! 1 6 Feb 02, 2009 12:09PM  
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