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.
Robison's thoughtful and thoroughly memorable account of living with Asperger's syndrome is assured of media attention (and sales) due in part to his brother Augusten Burroughs's brief but fascinating description of Robison in Running with Scissors. But Robison's story is much more fully detailed in this moving memoir, beginning with his painful childhood, his abusive alcoholic father and his mentally disturbed mother. Robison describes how from nursery school on he could not communicate effectively with others, something his brain is not wired to do, since kids with Asperger's don't recognize common social cues and body language or facial expressions. Failing in junior high, Robison was encouraged by some audiovisual teachers to fix their broken equipment, and he discovered a more comfortable world of machines and circuits, of muted colors, soft light, and mechanical perfection. This led to jobs (and many hilarious events) in worlds where strange behavior is seen as normal: developing intricate rocket-shooting guitars for the rock band Kiss and computerized toys for the Milton Bradley company. Finally, at age 40, while Robison was running a successful business repairing high-end cars, a therapist correctly diagnosed him as having Asperger's. In the end, Robison succeeds in his goal of helping those who are struggling to grow up or live with Asperger's to see how it is not a disease but a way of being that needs no cure except understanding and encouragement from others. (Sept.)
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Showing 1-3 of the 3 most recent reviews
1 . great read
Posted February 07, 2010 by jagrios , los angelesmy son has autism and this book so completely relates to his personality I was amazed. would recommend this book to anyone, especially those who know someone with autism
2 . Insight.
Posted June 15, 2009 by Read Her , Ft LauderdaleIt's somewhat difficult for me to adequately rate this book. It is written by a man with Asperger's - a form of autism. From the perspective of getting insight to what an autistic person experiences in their interaction with society and family - it was wonderful. For him to be able to articulate his feelings and experiences - and his successes - in such a way that one can not only understand but RELATE to him is remarkable. In fact, by the end of the book he appears to be very normal indeed.
The parts where he shares his childhood abuse and mental illness within his family is a stark reminder that thousands of children today are subject to the same treatment - with or without autism. More frightening perhaps for those who do have autism and cannot communicate what is happening to them - even if they wanted to or could.
Overall, it's a very human read. The things he achieved at such a young age show how human compassion and offering direction to a youth can help direct genious and save a life. His story is an inspiration in overcoming whatever life thows at you and striving to be a better version of oneself.
3 . Interesting Memoir
Posted June 09, 2009 by Abigail , WatervilleJohn wrote very candidly about a rare disorder. A lovely memoir. And really cool for anyone interested in KISS. John worked for them :)
September 24, 2007
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