You’ve never read a book like The Reason I Jump. Written by Naoki Higashida, a very smart, very self-aware, and very charming thirteen-year-old boy with autism, it is a one-of-a-kind memoir that demonstrates how an autistic mind thinks, feels, perceives, and responds in ways few of us can imagine. Parents and family members who never thought they could get inside the head of their autistic loved one at last have a way to break through to the curious, subtle, and complex life within.
Using an alphabet grid to painstakingly construct words, sentences, and thoughts that he is unable to speak out loud, Naoki answers even the most delicate questions that people want to know. Questions such as: “Why do people with autism talk so loudly and weirdly?” “Why do you line up your toy cars and blocks?” “Why don’t you make eye contact when you’re talking?” and “What’s the reason you jump?” (Naoki’s answer: “When I’m jumping, it’s as if my feelings are going upward to the sky.”) With disarming honesty and a generous heart, Naoki shares his unique point of view on not only autism but life itself. His insights—into the mystery of words, the wonders of laughter, and the elusiveness of memory—are so startling, so strange, and so powerful that you will never look at the world the same way again.
In his introduction, bestselling novelist David Mitchell writes that Naoki’s words allowed him to feel, for the first time, as if his own autistic child was explaining what was happening in his mind. “It is no exaggeration to say that The Reason I Jump allowed me to round a corner in our relationship.” This translation was a labor of love by David and his wife, KA Yoshida, so they’d be able to share that feeling with friends, the wider autism community, and beyond. Naoki’s book, in its beauty, truthfulness, and simplicity, is a gift to be shared.
My nine-year-old nephew has autism. So with my sister and our family, I've been on the journey of life with an autistic child: the ups, the downs, the hope, the despair, the good days, the bad days. It is not a journey for the faint of heart, and admire for sister and brother-in-law for the patience and grace with which they walk it everyday.
I forget when or how I heard about this book, but I have been wanting to read it for quite awhile. For some reason, now was the time it happened. My initial reaction was one of sadness. It's literally every few answers that Naoki talks about hating himself because he has no control over his body. He talks about how his greatness sadness is knowing that he causes other people pain and sadness, but there is nothing he can do about it. For him, life is perpetually trying really hard but never quite getting it. It's trying to remember things and then forgetting. It's uncomfort and despair.
But Naoki talks a lot about things that make him happy. And it's little things. Nature and a simple action. Familiarity. The sound of his own voice. Water. Jumping. I loved this and understand why it was chosen as the title for the book:
But when I’m jumping, it’s as if my feelings are going upward to the sky. Really, my urge to be swallowed up by the sky is enough to make my heart quiver. When I’m jumping, I can feel my body parts really well, too—my bounding legs and my clapping hands—and that makes me feel so, so good.This book has mixed reviews, and I admit that I can see the other side. This is the side that wonders how a 13-year-old boy can write like this. Especially one with autism. I wonder if there was any, "This is probably what he means" that happened in the process from Naoki to the the machine to the person who was writing down what he was pointing to, to the person who wrote it down on paper, to the person who translated it in English.
But enough of it is so juvenile and raw that I believe it must be this boy. I'm glad I read this book. I came away with some take aways that I will remember when interacting with my nephew, and that is what Naoki says he wanted with this book.