Book Review: Atypical – Life with Asperger’s in 20 1/3 Chapters by Jesse A. Saperstein

Atypical
Title: Atypical: Life with Asperger’s in 20 1/3 Chapters
Author: Jesse A. Saperstein
Social Media: Facebook, Goodreads, Twitter and YouTube
Publisher: TarcherPerigee, imprint of Penguin Publishing Group
Price and Format: eBook at $15.79
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

About The Author:
Jesse A. Saperstein is a best-selling author, autism advocate and motivational speaker. He is considered one of the most respected leaders in the Anti-Bullying movement of his generation. Jesse also has a form of autism called Asperger’s syndrome (AS). After graduating from Hobart and William Smith Colleges in 2004 with a BA degree in English, Jesse set out to conquer the 2,174-mile Appalachian Trail to benefit the Joey DiPaolo AIDS Foundation. He began hiking from Georgia to Maine on March 9, 2005 and successfully completed the journey on October 18, 2005, raising more than $19,000 for children to attend summer camp who had contracted HIV/AIDS through prenatal transmission. Shortly after his hike ended, Jesse was exposed to some of the cruel realities of living as an adult on the autism spectrum and was treated as a social pariah by members of the community who did not understand. His decision to become a writer was an opportunity to escape these realities and advocate for his peers who are not always granted a voice.

Jesse’s story, “Atypical: Life with Asperger’s in 20 1/3 Chapters” was published by Penguin Group (USA) in April 2010 and immediately became a popular memoir due to its practical advice and outrageous humor. He chronicles his misadventures and extremes to improve his social skills. The book quickly rose to the top of Amazon.com and placed Jesse as a dynamic media personality, motivational speaker and most important, an advocate for people with disabilities. His most recent book is “Getting a Life with Asperger’s: Lessons Learned on the Bumpy Road to Adulthood” that functions as a guidebook to ensure a smoother transition into adulthood.

About The Book:
“Please be forewarned that you are about to read the observations and life lessons of someone who entertains himself by farting in public and conversing in gibberish with his cats.”

Thus begins the charming, insightful, and memorable story of Jesse A. Saperstein. Diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, a mild form of autism, Jesse has struggled since childhood with many of the hallmark challenges of his condition-from social awkwardness and self-doubt to extreme difficulty with change and managing his emotions.
He has also worked hard to understand and make the most of his AS, such as developing his keen curiosity and sense of humor, closely observing the world around him, and most of all, helping others with AS to better cope and even thrive. Told with endearing and unflinching honesty, Jesse brings his unique perspective to the circumstances of his life and his condition.

Aspects I Enjoyed:
~Book Cover: I love the Book Cover, the deeper symbolism wasn’t obvious to me until I reached the end of the novel. Jesse has a yearly habit of sending out Christmas cards with long letters attached to them to everyone he knows, which I think is sweet (especially since he’s Jewish). However when I was thinking about the book and how it’s a little short for a memoir novel, it dawned on me, it’s like he’s sending out a Christmas letter to all of us, a brief Autistic “The Weather Is Here, Wish You Were Beautiful” Postcard.

~Representation Matters: Even though I don’t have Autism, I could completely relate to Jesse’s social misadventures, especially since I’m a nerdy introverted person with constant case of foot-in-mouth disease. In fact, I have had that exact same random conversation with my partner about the Feeder Fetish trend. Jesse’s anecdotes are hilarious, inappropriate and yet completely relevant. For I too was told often and frequently that “just be yourself” was the solution to the problem, while the adults around me failed to grasp that being myself was in fact the problem. Jesse is absolutely right in the idea of breaking down stereotypes around disabilities in general, but especially with Autism and HIV+/AIDS condition as well. While I agree with Jesse’s ethos of the novel (“When you’ve met a person with Autism… You have met just ONE person with Autism”) and how people with Asperger’s or Autism are unique, I would be remiss not to mention there are definitely some similarities among Aspies (the way they handle Jehovah’s Witnesses and how they have problems with talking to people over the phone)

~It Gets Better: Personally, I felt that the memoir ended on a bit of a sad note, however I understood that perhaps that was important to establish that a life with Asperger’s is a constant struggle and that it’s important to take things one day at a time. However, my theory is that this book is supposed to act as an introduction of sorts, an opportunity for Jesse to raise awareness among the Neurotypicals, Jesse has a blog and a website so curious readers can find out how the journey continues. I know it will come across as silly, however I was so happy to read this blog-post “The Greatest Day Ever“, to go from the end of the Memoir to The Greatest Day Ever is an enormous success and Jesse deserves every moment of hard-earned happiness.

Aspects I Had Problems With:
~The Feminist Reading Glasses: I’m willing to tolerate a lot in a book, however a nerdy guy acting like he’s entitled to a woman’s time or entitled to a second chance when he messes up is not something I’ll ever feel comfortable reading, especially since when Women reject men or directly refuse their romantic advances, they end up assaulted or murdered. I understand that Jesse has Asperger’s and while the author does call out his own behavior as misogynistic, it was still super uncomfortable to read. The fact that Jesse turns his bad date into a positive comedy performance is to his credit.

~The Elephant In The Room: One of my biggest problems with this memoir was the lack of other women or female identifying people with Autism mentioned. While Jesse does mention people from college who belong on the Autism Spectrum, he mentions relatives who could possibly belong on the Autism Spectrum, he even mentions fictional characters and media representations of Autism, all those people are men. Jesse does mention women or female presenting people with Autism in his blog-post about the gatherings of the Global and Regional Asperger Syndrome Partnership (GRASP), however these mentions tend to be brief side-notes like Yoga-Girl or his sister Dena. This is especially problematic as Doctors are continuing to refuse to diagnose girls with Autism, if Autism is seen as something that only affects boys, the struggle for mainstream acceptance of Autism will continue. The one of the aspects I liked most about Yes Please by Amy Poehler was how she had chapters written by other people (her co-workers and her parents), I feel Atypical could have benefited from a similar technique.

All in all, a great and humorous memoir proving once in for all that no matter how separate or different we think each other to be, we all crave the same things. From my perspective, there’s a lot of similarities between Neurotypical people and Asperger’s People, if/when you get a job in retail (especially at a supermarket), no one really grows up, I continuously get “adult” men and women unable to wait until their through the check-out before eating something, Neurotypicals are just slightly better at hiding it.

Links:
~Autism Awareness Australia

~Autism Awareness Australia Facebook Page

~Autism Victoria A.K.A Amaze

~Autism Spectrum Australia

~The National Autistic Society (UK)

~Autism Women’s Network

~Global & Regional Asperger Syndrome Partnership (GRASP)

~Autism helped me become an internationally published author – here’s how by Corinne Duyvis

~Diverse characters: Corinne Duyvis on the decline of “issue” books by Corinne Duyvis

~I have autism and the lack of authentic autistic voices in books angers me by Sara Barrett

~Not just a boy thing: how doctors are letting down girls with autism by Amelia Hill

~The Autism Project: Mothers with ASD ask why scientists are missing girls by Kate Allen

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