Note: The last week and this upcoming week have been finals week, so I fell behind on blogging. Apologies for the delay!
I am genuinely unsure how to quantify whether or not a book changed my life; I’m still pretty young and haven’t really had time to fully appreciate the scope of my choices and their consequences. But for the sake of this meme, I’ll focus on one which changed my outlook, which is a way of changing my life: Born on a Blue Day, by Daniel Tammet.
It’s a rather famous memoir in autistic circles, it’s about the life and times of Daniel Tammet, an autistic savant who grew up in the UK and went on to have his prodigious talents in math, language and memory earn him a bit of fame and the nickname “Brain Man”, a play on “Rain Man”. Born on a Blue Day was his first book, after its success, he wrote another one about using your brain to its full potential called Embracing the Wide Sky. Born on a Blue Day deals with Daniel’s life from birth until about the mid-2000s, when he was first beginning to become famous and went on a tour as the Brain Man through America. It deals with his childhood, his relationship with his family, his epilepsy, his social isolation, his adventures with math and languages, and his sexuality.
This book made a profound difference in my life because it was the first (authentic) instance in my life of reading a book written from the point of view of an autistic person. Daniel had so many moments where I went “That sounds like me!” or “Wow, I did that too!” or “Wow, did I write this?” By the middle of it, I was crying, actually crying, from happiness at having found someone whose life so closely paralleled my own. It is one thing to read about a character in a book whom you can relate to on some level and sympathise with their struggles. It is another thing entirely to have a real person telling you the story of their life, and having it mirror yours, realising that your minds share something special, and that they’ve flourished not because they found a way to suppress it, but a means of expressing it.
Reading Daniel’s book was the first step I took towards accepting my autism as something I would always have, and knowing that that didn’t have to be a bad thing, quite the contrary, it could be a wonderful thing, if only I would allow it to be. After I finished it, I began re-evaluating the way I was approaching my life and my interactions with others, and became more mentally healthy and in touch with my talents. They weren’t a shameful thing, they were something to treasure and love.
I’ve since then read Daniel’s other book, and I’m happy to see that he’s becoming even more at ease with who he is, and, from what I can tell, happier. His is a story that I can use as a guiding light for my own journey as an autistic person going through adulthood. Every autistic person is different, but there are a few overlaps in the way we experience the world and live our lives which makes reading some autistic people’s memoirs an absolute joy for me in a world where most people presume a neurotypical majority and a neurotypical audience.