The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy with Autism by Naoki Higashida, foreword by David Mitchell, translated by KA Yoshida and David Mitchell
As spare as this book is, it’s turned out to be one of the most bookmarked (with skinny stick-its) titles I’ve recently read. Written by an autistic Japanese then-13-year-old, the English translation arrives six years later courtesy of parents of an autistic child – internationally bestselling author David Mitchell (yes, he of Cloud Atlas-mega-fame) and his wife KA Yoshida. “The Reason I Jump was a revelatory godsend,” Mitchell writes in his “Introduction.” What began as “an informal translation of Naoki’s book into English so that our son’s other carers and tutors could read it, as well as a few friends who also have sons and daughters with autism in our corner of Ireland,” has resulted in this full translation – an international gift to the English-speaking many. [According to a March 2013 report from the Center for Disease Control, an estimated 1 in 50 children is diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, a 300% jump from 2012! ]
Especially for Mitchell and Yoshida, Jump provides two important epiphanies: 1. it “… offers up proof that locked inside the helpless-seeming autistic body is a mind as curious, subtle, and complex as yours, as mine, as anyone’s”; and 2. it “… unwittingly discredits the doomiest item of received wisdom about autism – that people with autism are antisocial loners who lack empathy with others.”
While spoken communication is “pretty much impossible, even now” for Higashida, he’s learned to write and blog by spelling out words directly onto an alphabet grid – he points out letters which a helper transcribes to “build up sentences, paragraphs, and entire books. Jump is composed of 58 questions with answers, interspersed with short-short stories, ending with a longer “I’m Right Here” – “I wrote this story in the hope that it will help you understand how painful it is when you can’t express yourself to the people you love.” In just over 100 pages, Higashida shares resonating inspiration …
- We know we’re making you sad and upset, but it’s as if we don’t have any say in it, I’m afraid, and that’s the way it is. But please, whatever you do, don’t give up on us.
- True compassion is about not bruising the other person’s self-respect.
- [W]e really badly want you to understand what’s going on inside our hearts and minds. And basically, my feelings are pretty much the same as yours.
- [B]eing able to share what I think allows me to understand that I, too, exist in this world as a human being.
- I can’t believe that anyone born as a human being really wants to be left all on their own, not really.
- We are more like travelers from distant, distant past. And if, by our being here, we could help the people of the world remember what truly matters for the Earth, that would give us quiet pleasure.
- And when the light of hope shines on all this world, then our future will be connected with your future. That’s what I want, above all.
Although Mitchell writes that Jump contains “the answers we had been waiting for,” I find myself thinking ‘beware,’ as what little I know about autism has shown me that the spectrum is dramatically vast. What might be the answer for some, might not be helpful to others; indeed one size can’t fit all. That said, all parents and caregivers – even those whose lives have not been touched directly by autism – will find plenty of thoughtful, important messages to ponder over between these pages. Most importantly, the young Higashida surely has plenty to teach us about being just plain human.
Published: 2007, 2013 (United States)