By Naoki Higashida
Like most parents of autistic children, best-selling novelist David Mitchell and his wife KA Yoshida had read just about every book on autism they could find. The Reason I Jump by Naoki Higashida, a thirteen-year-old autistic boy from Japan, is the one book that made a life-changing difference in their relationship with their autistic son. As the book was only available in Japanese, Yoshida and Mitchell quickly translated Higashida’s commentary on what it is like to have autism for their autistic son’s English-speaking caregivers and extended family.
Naoki Higashida’s autism is severe enough to make spoken communication nearly impossible. His teachers began working with him in primary school using a grid of Japanese hiragana letters and its English counterpart. Through this grid, Naoki was able to communicate with others and even wrote short stories and poems in primary school. Since his book’s translation into English, Naoki’s explanations of what he thinks about autism have gained international attention. Naoki answers such questions as: “Why do you jump?” “Why do you like being in the water?” and “Why do people with autism talk so loudly and weirdly?” In his introduction to The Reason I Jump, David Mitchell not only relates the relief of having some idea of what was really going on his child’s world but he also emphasizes the full range of human understanding and empathy that Naoki shares in his stories. The Reason I Jump is a book for all who want to understand what it means to be human.
Reviewed by Lisa Newman www.lemuriabooks.com