Book review: The Reason I Jump
✮✮✮✮✮Did a child write one of the most insightful books about autism?
David Mitchell, the award-winning author of Cloud Atlas and the father of an autistic child, claims so.
The Reason I Jump is the memoir of Naoki Higashida, an autistic boy for whom spoken communication is pretty much impossible. He learnt to spell words out onto an alphabet grid, which were then translated by a helper.
Higashida wrote the book when he was 13 and it was initially published in Japanese in 2006.
But more recently it has been made accessible to English-speakers, thanks to the translation by Mitchell and his wife K A Yoshida, who began working on it to gain some perspective on their own child’s behaviour.
Having a child’s perspective gives the book a sense of straightforwardness that is both enlightening and demystifying, which is what makes it so fascinating.
The Reason I Jump follows a conventional Q&A structure, with every chapter posing a different question, such as “Why do you speak in that peculiar way?” or “Why do you make a huge fuss over tiny mistakes?”
The answers, which show a great deal of empathy and humour, bring you into a rather nightmarish, locked-in world and end up dismantling many common thoughts about autism.
Higashida writes of being painfully aware of the stress his condition causes for his teachers and parents and feeling bad because of it.
He reveals a mind which is not detached or unaware of what is going around him, but one that is deeply curious and knowledgeable.
The Reason I Jump illuminates a mysterious and much misunderstood condition from a child’s point of view.
It is an important and fascinating read for the general public because, even if the closest you’ve ever been to autism was watching Rain Man, everybody remembers what it is like to be a thirteen year old child.