MacK'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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Dec 03, 11

bookshelves: non-fiction
Read in November, 2011

Two months ago my classroom was overflowing with emotion, argument and intensity. I was introducing Mark Haddon's Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime and highlighting some elements of Asperger's syndrome and Autism to help my students consider the voice of the narrator. I thought it would be a quiet day of question and answer, but suddenly, I had a dialogue that was more engaging and profound than some grad classes I have taken. Students asked questions, sure, but they also shared their experiences being labeled "different" or "weird" and took serious issue with the terms "disabled" and "learning difficulties". We were getting right into the core of the book on the very first day, and I was absolutely giddy leading the class and digging more into a subject and perspective on learning that will be crucial for the rest of my career.

The next week a student brought me this book and encouraged me to read it. She thought it got to the issues of Asperger's with great wit and creativity and hoped that I could use it for future conversations. Sadly, what with all the papers I had to read and grade I could only make time for five to ten minutes a night with this memoir. I found it to be an insightful look into the life of a man who couldn't fit in schools or society because he simply thought differently than other people. Robison tells stories that capture the confusion and conflict some of my students talked about when they were dismissed as "odd" while the world around them seemed just as strange.

Some individual anecdotes shine through, but Robison's writing isn't consistent enough to keep me riveted for much more than a chapter at a time. Some stories leave me smiling or shaking my head, but a great many more just have me turning pages. Perhaps this comes from the amount of time I had to read, or from the fact that I have never read Running with Scissors (the memoir by Robison's brother, Augusten Burroughs), or that I wanted to find in book form the kind of intellectual alchemy I had during my classroom discussion. Whatever it is, I hesitate to laud Look Me in the Eye but I certainly don't want to denigrate it either, I'll just say, Robinson's a good story teller but not the greatest writer. His stories express his experiences of loneliness and confusion and success and delight, it all paints a picture of a weirdo in a weird world.

All those stories are helpful though. They remind me to see each student as an individual, not as part of a syndrome or one of the "normal" kids. As one of my students reminded me in class: "it's the weirdos who make the world go 'round."
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