Tag Archives: isolated and alien

Songs of the Gorilla Nation: a Book Review

Songs of the Gorilla NationSongs of the Gorilla Nation by Dawn Prince-Hughes
My rating: 5 of 5 stars ★★★★★

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 happen.

Dawn is a gifted writer, and the book has brilliant passages and good integrity. Its structure is meaningful, organised into 3 sections:

Part 1. Dawn’s childhood and youth history growing up with undiagnosed autism, knowing something is wrong with her socially, but unable to figure out what it is. She is severely bullied and drops out of school, becomes homeless and hungry, and later finds a way to make a living as an erotic dancer. The roots of her passion for primates is her childhood fascination with ancient humans; and that fascination runs through her life story as a sub-surface theme waiting to unfold.

Part 2: Dawn discovers the gorillas. She is lucky and gets a job in the zoo, and gets more and more involved with the gorilla family. They become her family, and she learns social skills by observing and interacting with them

Part 3: Dawn’s life post-zoo, with the social skills she learned from the gorillas. She establishes a family, works through relationship problems, discovers the name of her condition and gets a diagnosis, gets on meds, and makes her special interest into her study direction and career.
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My Aspergers Journey

I’m at a sort of turning point in my life for the time being; where I finally really take ownership of asperger’s syndrome*. Like say “I have Asperger’s Syndrome” to my family, for example (so far the only example).

It may be a surprise that it is even a turning point. It is several years ago since I discovered aspergers syndrome and I have spent probably thousands of hours researching, watching videos and interacting online in relation to aspects of it, immersed in a sense-making process akin to what Cynthia outlines in her series “I Think I Might Be Autistic“*:

 

THE SENSEMAKING PROCESS

  1. Shift in identity – identification as aspie/autistic
  2. Retrospection – looking back at key life events in the context of this new identity
  3. Building narrative accounts – retelling the story of your life in light of AS/autism
  4. Sharing your narratives – strengthening and preserving your stories by sharing them with others
  5. Reflecting – the ongoing process of receiving feedback on your stories and reshaping them as your understanding of your narrative changes

From Developing a Sensemaking Narrative by Musings of an Aspie AKA Cynthia.

 
Cynthia’s list resonates well with me, but not in that order. In my case, step 1 is the last and hardest step. That is because “identification as aspie/autistic” is not just about what I am, it also represents a collective identity. The disadvantage of my extensive research of first hand accounts like blogs and forums is that I’m acutely aware that a lot of different people already own Aspergers/autism… define it and represent it. Continue reading

A Circle of Friends

Many TV series, books and movies feature cute and fun everyday dramas of a circle of friends. For example TV series like Beverly Hill 90210, Friends, Ally, and The Big Bang Theory.

 

 
I’m not sure how realistically they portray how it works, but a circle of friends seems like a common expectation for a normal social life. For me, that expectation has caused a lot of agony in the past which still lurk somewhere in the fringes, saying your life is not good enough.

 
What a Circle of Friends Is

My understanding of a circle of friends is a group of friends who all know each other well and typically have known each other for a long time; so they are a bit like a sort of family but not usually family. They are usually within the same age range and socio-economic segment. They hang out together often, maybe almost every day, in regular rendezvous locations such as a specific sofa set-up in a cafe or shared flat. They have shared habits, rituals and history together and know what to expect from each other.

A circle of friends typically comprises 3 to 8 members, who may not all go perfectly well along. Just like in a family, members have to be tolerant of each other across even seemingly incompatible differences and find diplomatic ways to cope with incompatibilities. Contained friction is OK (and fictive contained friction tends to be hilarious). Open serious conflicts and exclusions are not OK, since that would tear apart the group.

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