Tressa 's Reviews > Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger's

Look Me in the Eye by John Elder Robison
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's review
Jan 20, 2008

it was amazing
bookshelves: aspergers, autobiography
Recommended for: Aspies and the families and friends who love them

“Look me in the eyes, young man!”
“Nobody trusts a man who won’t look them in the eye.”
“You look like a criminal.”
“I’ve read about people like you. They have no expression because they have no feeling. Some of the worst murderers in history were sociopaths.”

These are just some of the things John Elder Robison heard as a young boy, decades before a friend handed him a book about Asperger’s Syndrome and told him, "This book describes you exactly." Hearing these predictions made Robison withdraw even further as a child as he waited for these awful things to come true. It wasn’t until he was a teenager that he realized he wasn’t going to become a serial killer. By that time he had met enough shifty people who had no trouble looking him in the eye to realize that these people had no idea what they were talking about. Learning that he was not defective and that he was not alone brought great peace to the adult John Elder Robison.

Although Robison was raised by a violent, alcoholic father and an increasingly mentally unstable mother, he was luckier than most Aspergian children at that time in that he was raised in a collegiate environment, where his quirky nature and adult personality were admired by professors and students. He honed his coping skills on college campuses across America. His brother, Augusten Burroughs, chronicled the dysfunction of the Robison family in his popular memoir, Running with Scissors (made into a movie in 2006). Burroughs believes that his brother was able to survive their turbulent childhood by his ability to shut down in traumatic situations.

Robison learned early on how not to answer a question. If a kid said, “Look at my Tonka truck,” instead of blurting out “I want some cookies,” he would force himself to supply the correct response: “That’s a neat truck! Can I hold it?” These skills helped him in his teenage and adult years, and he went on to design speakers for Pink Floyd and flaming guitars for KISS before settling down in the corporate world of designing electronic games for Milton Bradley. Eventually, his expertise in automotives steered him towards his own business of repairing and restoring European automobiles.

Some who are familiar with Aspies might be surprised at the emotion that Robison brings to his story. The chapters “I Get a Bear Cub” and “Winning at Basketball,” and the epilogue about his father’s death are surprisingly touching, breaking through the common robotic barrier of an Aspie. I was especially moved by his perfectly rational reason why Aspies don’t show emotion over tragic events that don’t directly affect them: "People die every minute, all over the world. If we tried to feel sorry for every death, our little hearts would explode." And he’s absolutely right.

Look Me in the Eye is one of the few books on Asperger's Syndrome that is not a dry training manual on the condition. I will always be grateful to Robison for telling his story because someone I'm close to has Asperger's, and I can now see that this person's eccentric way of doing things makes perfectly good sense to him, even if it sometimes doesn't to me.
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05/20/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-10)

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message 10: by Amanda (new) - added it

Amanda Lyons I've seen this book here and there and hadn't yet really gotten enough interest together to read it ( I was thinking of all those dry books on the subject) your review has decided me and I've added it to read list. Thanks :)

Tressa Yeah, it's not dry at all. An interesting bio about his life and the subject of Asperger's.

Tecia is this tressa who has a sister Chris?

Tressa How do you know me?

Tecia this is Tecia. if you know me lets be friends

Tressa I don't know you.

Tecia weird. there are so few tressas around.

Tressa How do you know my sister?

Tecia I don't. I know another Tressas older sister. We were friends in high school.

message 1: by Phillip (new) - added it

Phillip Childs My wife told me I needed to read it because she thought it would ring true with my life... I was recently diagnosed with aspergers... I am 38, my dad was an alcoholic and my mom had mental issues until her death when I was 14... then my dad shut down and my life was a mess until I got married at 30... wow...

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