Naoki Higashida is a nonverbal, autistic young man whose first widely translated memoir, The Reason I Jump, written when he was 13, was received with acclaim and incredulity. Acclaim because it detailed the vivid inner life of someone who had, before his mother’s intervention with what they call an “alphabet grid” (a modified QWERTY keyboard), seemed unresponsive, and incredulity because it seemed impossible that someone who was genuinely autistic and working independently could compose such coherent and artful prose. Since writing The Reason I Jump, Higashida has become a celebrity in Japan and the second most widely translated Japanese author behind Haruki Murakami.
Higashida’s new collection—comprised of blog entries, poems, a short story and an interview—brings readers up to speed with the author, now in his early 20s. His thoughts on neurological diversity are riveting: “My brain has this habit of getting lost inside things. Finding the way in is easy, but—like being in a maze—finding your way out is a lot harder. I want to exit the maze right now, but I’m forced to stay inside it. This applies also to time and schedules. They constrain me.” Higashida’s accounts of thinking in images, feeling compelled to make repetitive movements and the difficulties and pleasures of communicating make this book totally captivating. Translator and bestselling author David Mitchell (Cloud Atlas) introduces the volume with an account of the dismay he felt when Higashida’s work was dismissed by critics as fraudulent. Mitchell points out that he has witnessed Higashida’s composing firsthand, and that, moreover, Higashida’s prose has changed the way he perceives—and interacts with—his own autistic son. Mitchell writes that bringing Higashida’s writing to a larger public has been the most important writing task of his life.
Readers will find this older Higashida not only eloquent and thoughtful, but also wise, measured and, most of all, kind.