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Asparagus Dreams


Autistic viewpoint on institutional life.

In a tone that brings to mind bubbly teenage girls, Jessica Peers recounts five years at a National Autistic Society residential school in the United Kingdom. The back cover of this book suggests that the book will give insights into Asperger's syndrome. On that point, it seems to be wrong. However, it does give a lot of insight into institutional life.

Peers has a talent for wryly amusing caricature, whether in drawing (her cartoons appear throughout the book) or in sketching out people's character in words. Not everything in the book is amusing, though. There are some truly harrowing scenes of physical and emotional abuse by staff, as well as the usual detached brusqueness that crops up in places like that. The funny descriptions offset the often-heavy situations enough to make it readable to us without causing too much pain, and one almost wonders if the author had the same idea herself.

Readers opinion:

"Neurotypical people read books by people with AS to find out about the condition or gain some illusive insight. As a person diagnosed with AS myself I just read them as most people would read any `normal' persons auto-biography... for interest and enjoyment and because, for a change, I can identify with the experiences the main character describes.

Diagnosed with Asperger syndrome at 12 and sent away to a residential school for young people with autism, this is the tale of the next 5 years of this girls life, the characters she meets, the emotional struggles she faces, and her rebellion against a misguided and inflexible system.

However, Jessica makes clear herself in the introduction that this book is not about naming and shaming people from her past. Names are changed, characters are composite, and she describes the experiences rather than the events, in a way that I at least found meaningful and compelling. My only disappointment was reaching the end and still wanting to know what happened next.

I don't think you'll learn much about AS from reading this, but it is still a worthwhile read in my opinion. "

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Tags: amusing, Autistic, institutional, scenes, physical