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Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger'sby John Elder Robison
Synopses & Reviews
Ever since he was small, John Robison had longed to connect with other people, but by the time he was a teenager, his odd habits—an inclination to blurt out non sequiturs, avoid eye contact, dismantle radios, and dig five-foot holes (and stick his younger brother in them)—had earned him the label “social deviant.” No guidance came from his mother, who conversed with light fixtures, or his father, who spent evenings pickling himself in sherry. It was no wonder he gravitated to machines, which could, at least, be counted on.
After fleeing his parents and dropping out of high school, his savant-like ability to visualize electronic circuits landed him a gig with KISS, for whom he created their legendary fire-breathing guitars. Later, he drifted into a “real” job, as an engineer for a major toy company. But the higher Robison rose in the company, the more he had to pretend to be “normal” and do what he simply couldn’t: communicate. It wasn’t worth the paycheck.
It was not until he was forty that an insightful therapist told him he had the form of autism called Asperger’s syndrome. That understanding transformed the way Robison saw himself—and the world.
Look Me in the Eye is the moving, darkly funny story of growing up with Asperger’s at a time when the diagnosis simply didn’t exist. A born storyteller, Robison takes you inside the head of a boy whom teachers and other adults regarded as “defective,” who could not avail himself of KISS’s endless supply of groupies, and who still has a peculiar aversion to using people’s given names (he calls his wife “Unit Two”). He also provides a fascinating reverse angle on the younger brother he left at the mercy of their nutty parents—the boy who would later change his name to Augusten Burroughs and write the bestselling memoir Running with Scissors.
Ultimately, this is the story of Robison’s journey from his world into ours, and his new life as a husband, father, and successful small business owner—repairing his beloved high-end automobiles. It’s a strange, sly, indelible account—sometimes alien, yet always deeply human.
In an entertaining and inspirational memoir of living with Asperger's Syndrome, the author describes life growing up different in an unusual family, his unusual talents, his struggle to live a "normal" life, his diagnosis at the age of forty with Asperger's, and the dramatic changes that have occurred since that diagnosis. 250,000 first printing.
Deeply felt and often darkly funny, Look Me in the Eye is a delight.
-PEOPLE magazine, Critics Choice, 4 Stars
Of course this book is brilliant; my big brother wrote it. But even if it hadn't been created by my big, lumbering, swearing, unshaven 'early man' sibling, this is as sweet and funny and sad and true and heartfelt a memoir as one could find, utterly unspoiled, uninfluenced, and original.
--from the foreword by Augusten Burroughs, author of Running with Scissors
Look Me In The Eye is a wonderful surprise on so many levels: it is compassionate, funny, and deeply insightful. By the end, I realized my vision of the world had undergone a slight but permanent alteration; I had taken for granted that our behavioral conventions were meaningful, when in fact they are arbitrary. That he is able to illuminate something so simple (but hidden, and unalterable) proves that John Elder Robison is at least as good a writer as he is an engineer, if not better.
--Haven Kimmel (who was in attendance at the 1978 KISS tour*), author of A Girl Named Zippy
I hugely enjoyed reading Look Me in the Eye. This book is a wild rollercoaster ride through John Robison's life--from troubled teenage prankster to successful employment in electronics, music, and classic cars. A kindly professor introduced him to electrical engineering, which led to jobs where he found techie soulmates that were like him. A fascinating glimpse into the mind of an engineer which should be on the reading list of anyone who is interested in the human mind.
--Temple Grandin, author of Thinking in Pictures and Animals in Translation
John Robison's book is an immensely affecting account of a life lived according to his gifts rather than his limitations. His story provides ample evidence for my belief that individuals on the autistic spectrum are just as capable of rich and productive lives as anyone else.
--Daniel Tammet, author of Born on a Blue Day: Inside the Extraordinary Mind of an Autistic Savant
From the Hardcover edition.
Table of Contents
A little misfit — A permanent playmate — Empathy — A trickster is born — I find a Porsche — The nightmare years — Assembly required — The dogs begin to fear me — I drop out of high school — Collecting the trash — The flaming washtub — I'm in prison with the band — The big time — The first smoking guitar — The ferry to Detroit — One with the machine — Rock and roll all night — A real job — A visit from management — Logic vs. small talk — Being young executives — Becoming normal — I get a bear cub — A diagnosis at forty — Montagoonians — Units one through three — Married life — Winning at basketball — My life as a train.
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