Celia Powell's Reviews > Songs of the Gorilla Nation: My Journey Through Autism

Songs of the Gorilla Nation by Dawn Prince-Hughes
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Jan 15, 08

bookshelves: memoir
Read in January, 2008

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 woman"), the intelligence of these creatures, and her dream that one day one of these may walk up to the Supreme Court and say, "I want to be free." She compares our thinking about other primate's intelligence, and the way we use them in experiments, to the way our culture once thought about slavery and slaves. It's a comparison I was uncomfortable with - comparing the horrors we inflicted on our own species, with the way we treat other primates.

While other primates are certainly intelligent creatures, I cannot think of them, as the author does, as men and women, and wonder to myself whether they have to right to raise children in captivity. Songs of the Gorilla Nation was an interesting insight into primate activism (if that's the right term), but being at the end of the book it stuck in my head more than the author's reflections on her autism - although really, the two subjects are so tightly intertwined in the book that it is difficult to consider them separately. Dawn experiences such a passionate awakening of self while working with gorillas that I can understand why she feels so strongly about their rights and freedoms.
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