Thoughts on To Siri With Love
I just finished a controversial new book, To Siri With Love by Judith Newman. Reading this book made me feel like memoirs from autism moms are a thing whose time has come and gone . . .
Perhaps this is an autistic thing. Maybe it's a situation where non-autistics find a story about one of our tribe interesting or entertaining, even as we autistics find the same words deeply troubling.
Now, the author may feel that's irrelevant because her son won't read it and react that way, but putting her son aside, I'm surprised she did not consider how badly another autistic person might react to those words. They clearly position her writing as from a non-autistic parent's perspective and embodies much of what actual autistic people criticize in such literature.
Early in the book Newman implies her son is not fully sentient. She asks why she is unable to find anything she can share with him. Yet her descriptions paint a picture of a boy with many interests (which she must not share) and enough thoughts that sentience should not be in doubt. A thoughtful reader is left to wonder how much of the book's reflection on the child actually bears upon the mom?
John Elder Robison
John Elder Robison is an autistic adult and advocate for people with neurological differences. He's the author of Look Me in the Eye, Be Different, Raising Cubby, and Switched On. He serves on the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee of the US Dept of Health and Human Services and many other autism-related boards. He's co-founder of the TCS Auto Program (A school for teens with developmental challenges) and he’s the Neurodiversity Scholar in Residence at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia and a visiting professor of practice at Bay Path University in Longmeadow, Massachusetts.