Book Club: discussion thread for Nobody, Nowhere

Discussion in 'Chit Chat' started by kholmes, Jul 28, 2008.

  1. kholmes

    kholmes New Member

    Not sure how many got a chance to read this one this month (Jean, was it you who recommended it?) but it's a memoir by an autistic Australian woman. It's remarkable, actually, since the author, Donna Williams, grew up severely autistic, in an abusive family, and also had multiple personalities, male and female, as a way of dealing with the "world out there."

    As usual, even if you haven't read the book this month, feel free to jump in the discussion.

    Williams has gone on to write three other books, including Somebody, Somewhere, and she's a painter and recording artist. You can listen to samples of her music on her website, which I think is

    Interesting to compare NOBODY, NOWHERE to our first book club book, THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHTTIME, which was about a boy with Asperger's Syndrome.

    Some questions come to mind:

    What did you think of the book?

    Do you know anyone who is autistic? Do they have similar ways of coping as Donna Williams did/does?

    What makes it so hard for autistic people to connect emotionally with other people?

    Do you think it's possible for many more autistic people to improve as much as Donna Williams has, or do you think hers is a highly unusual case?

    To what extent do you think food and chemical insensitivities can worsen mental disorders like autism, like they did for Donna?

    [This Message was Edited on 07/28/2008]
  2. kholmes

    kholmes New Member

    Looks like it's

    Donna Williams's music is actually as impressive as her writing, I think.

    What I really liked about this book was the way it took me inside the head of an autistic person and gave me a first-person view. I can't imagine there are many books like it out there. The story of her relationship with the Welsh man was especially sad. The book gave me a lot of insight on what they must be thinking and the reasons for the behavior, such as aping or mimicry, not wanting to be touched, withdrawing into themselves, etc.

    I wouldn't have noticed without her captions, but the pictures of her as a girl were especially interesting, showing vacant facial expressions or eyes that were "looking through" the foreground.

    I also wonder if her book, though incredibly informative, has set up unrealistic expectations for parents or caretakers of those with autism. She advocates a "tough love" approach, it sounds like, to help people with autism function and communicate better. But I wonder if, just as with Laura Hillenbrand's wild success as a novelist despite her CFS, people fall into the "if she can do it, you should be able to do it to," syndrome.

    Annie, I'd love to hear your take on this book, as a parent of an autistic son.

  3. rockgor

    rockgor Well-Known Member

    book; read a few pages; quit. I cannot read books about abused children. Was one myself.

    But I have been reading a buncha stuff. Including some books that are somewhat misleading.

    Just finished the Naked Cartoonist by Robert Mankoff. He has cartoons in the huge New Yorker Cartoons book I described in the adjacent thread. (Probably won't be adjacent by the time you read this.)

    He says the greatest day in his career was the one on which he sold a cartoon to the New Yorker. He submitted a thousand cartoons over a two-year period before he finally made a sale.

    Today he is cartoon editor of The New Yorker. The misleading part is that his books is not a collection of cartoons, but a text on creativity illustrated by cartoons.

    And "The Charged Border" by Jim Nollman is not a book about whales by a scientist, as one would expect from the cover, but a book by a musician who interacts with whales and other animals.

    And "Shameless Exploitation" by Paul Newman and A. E. Hotchner (his partner) is a book about peddling salad dressing, but even more a book about summer camps for gravely ill children.

    Hope you enjoy the cartoon book, Jean. If you don't, you know who to write to. (Or "whom to write".)


  4. kholmes

    kholmes New Member

    Thanks for your thoughtful response.

    I had forgotten what Donna said about not originally intending to get her book published. Good for the psychologist she gave it to for encouraging her. I found a copy of Somebody, Somewhere, but I probably won't read the whole thing.

    I feel like after reading her book, I know what autism is, but also what it really feels like to BE autistic. Never thought a book could do that for me.

    That was a beautiful quote from the Sue Monk Kidd book about the autistic girl "hearing God's finest whispers" and what she typed on the computer. Seems like we read a Sue Monk Kidd book a while back. The Secret Life of Bees, I think.
    [This Message was Edited on 08/06/2008]
  5. kholmes

    kholmes New Member

    I put The Brain that Changes Itself on hold at the library, and I checked out the website for your friend's school. Good for her! I'll be curious to read more about her methods in the book. Helping students with learning disabilities through exercise (and diet) are very controversial, indeed.

    I'm definitely no LD expert, but I was a teacher for fifteen years, and had many students with learning disabilities. I taught Navajo students for over a decade, but more of their problems stemmed from langauge differences (i.e. growing up with a mix of Navajo and rudimentary English at home), rather than LD's.

  6. kholmes

    kholmes New Member

    I have had some adventures indeed, and many of them were during the school year with my Navajo students: the Grand Canyon, the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake, Moscow and Siberia in '98.

    Too wiped out tonight to go into any detail tonight, but I will definitely share some with you this weekend, and I'd love to hear about yours as well.

  7. Rafiki

    Rafiki New Member

    I read 'Nobody Nowhere' when it first came out. I had worked with autistic children when I was a very young woman and remained interested in the subject. These days, I am a big fan of Drooooopy on YouTube.

    Drooooopy is a woman in her mid 40s who was thought to be profoundly retarded until she was 30 and it was discovered that she could read (had been reading since the age of 2) and write extraordinarily well. She is seriously autistic.

    Drooooopy makes moving, artistic, educational videos and I am a big fan. She loves the Beatles (me, too) and makes some lovely and simple videos of herself "stimming" to Beatle's songs. Who knew "stimming" could be beautiful.

    On the link here, there is an open letter/video to CNN. Drooooopy writes everything herself, unassisted, and makes her videos herself using computer speech to "narrate". A friend who appears in some often acts as cameraman. It's fascinating stuff.

    Drooooopy makes reference to an unfortunate incident with another autistic woman who, when interviewed, gave details about Drooooopy's life which she learned through an online friendship with Drooooopy. It's not really clear if you see just this one video.

    Drooooopy's videos give those of us considered neuro-typical (we probably don't count as neuro-typicals, actually) a fascinating look inside autism. In one of her videos she explains why she stims, how it calms her and what objects she likes to have in her hands when she stims.

    I really think Drooooopy should be mandatory viewing for all who are touched by autism and any who want to see excellent videos made by a very interesting woman who has led a fascinating life.

    Peace out,

    [This Message was Edited on 08/20/2008]
  8. Rafiki

    Rafiki New Member

    and edited my post. Drooooopy's life story is fascinating whether one has a preexisting interest in Autism or not.

    Peace out,