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

3.80  ·  Rating details ·  1,159 ratings  ·  122 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)
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Average rating 3.80  · 
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 ·  1,159 ratings  ·  122 reviews

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Apr 24, 2007 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 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
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
Jun 16, 2007 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. ...more
Leanna Manuel
Apr 20, 2013 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
Nov 13, 2013 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 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
Oct 01, 2008 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
Jul 16, 2010 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
Steph (loves water)
Dec 06, 2012 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 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. ...more
Jul 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 10, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: adult-nonfiction
This was a book that had two intersecting themes: the author's experience with Asperger's and her experience with and subsequent research about gorillas. Her observations of gorillas in a zoo helped her learn to relate to those around her, human and otherwise, and to better understand her own unconventional orientation toward living. To me, some of her difficulties were not only with her autistic orientation, but with the poor way it was handled. Certainly, not as much was known at the time she ...more
Carol Meyer
Oct 31, 2013 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
Jun 16, 2008 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
Sep 05, 2011 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
Mar 22, 2013 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
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 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
Sep 18, 2018 rated it liked it
This book was an autobiography - the author is herself autistic. Her descriptions of the gorillas and their society and how they helped her was very interesting. She did a good job of describing how their non-verbal communication could appeal to someone with her condition and how she could learn from their social skills.
Dec 30, 2007 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
Jul 21, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: shrug
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 15, 2016 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
Jerry Rose
Jun 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
the topics and themes of book really hit close to home as a monkey lover and cousin to an autistic. The life that Austitic Dr. Hughes gave me a ton of hope for the future of my cousin. He has been told he is incapable his whole life, hopefully, its not too late to change that.

Interesting revelations from the Songs of a Gorilla Nation:
young inexperienced females feel discomfort around the proximity of a mate, not knowing what to do and eventually walking away or acting brashly. autistics contemp
May 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: animals, memoir
A life with a neurological "difference" can be so isolating, which is why the author's discovery of an ability to connect with the gorillas at the Woodland Park Zoo in Tacoma made such a difference in her life. Her work there has led to some spectacular insights about autism, anthrolopology, and gender identification. I love that she makes it clear that she is writing her own experience with autism, not a handbook on autism spectrum disorders. She makes a strong case for ending slavery of primat ...more
Judy Frey
Jan 16, 2018 rated it liked it
My second book in a row that was written by someone with autism. It is truly fascinating to read of their understanding of how it feels to be on the spectrum: how it affects their lives, their friends, their families. Dawn had a very difficult time because she simply knew she was very different; she did not receive a diagnosis until adulthood. She is extremely bright and earned a Ph. D. through individual mentoring rather than attending large classes, something she simply couldn’t handle. She ha ...more
Erin Sterling
Fascinating, compelling story of a woman who has Asperger's but was not diagnosed until she was 36 years old. Unable to understand why people did what they did, she spiraled downward, dropping out of school, drinking, wandering homeless, getting a job at a strip club, until one day she observed the gorillas at Woodland Park Zoo and realized that she could understand people better through studying gorillas. I've read a fair amount about autism, but I still find the first-person stories incredible ...more
May 11, 2013 rated it liked it
This thoughtful book was written by a woman who figured out gorillas before she figured out herself. Dr. Prince-Hughes suffered feelings of extreme alienation and loneliness all her life. until she met a troop of gorillas at the zoo. She found it calming to watch them for hours on end. She seemed to instinctively understand their behavior. At age 36, she was diagnosed with Asperger's. She welcomed the diagnosis and moved on, eventually receiving her doctorate in interdisciplinary anthropology. ...more
Jan 10, 2015 rated it really liked it
Dawn Prince-Hughes' self-described journey from the inwardly focused world of autism to a more open awareness is just one aspect of this book. It's also a strong advocacy for gorillas and other primates both in captivity and in the wild. She credits observations and interactions with a family of gorillas at the zoo where she worked/studied for her break-through in learning to understand what another person thinks and feels and how her actions can impact that experience. Overall , the book is a v ...more
Jan 30, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I interact with kids with autism on a daily basis, have attended conferences, read research and books on it, etc., but this was the first book that I have read from the perspective of someone with autism. It seems a rare gift to be able to describe with such detail and beauty a disorder that is sometimes very puzzling. And I enjoyed the way she parallels her discovery of herself alongside her discovery of the culture and lives of the gorillas she worked with.
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Excellent book! 1 6 Feb 02, 2009 12:09PM  

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Dawn Prince-Hughes is an American anthropologist, primatologist, and ethologist who received her M.A. and PhD in interdisciplinary anthropology from the Universität Herisau in Switzerland. In 2000 she was appointed an adjunct professor at Western Washington University. She is the executive chair of ApeNet Inc., has served as the executive director of the Institute for Cognitive Archaeological Rese ...more

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