Book Reviews

Review of Everyday Heaven - Journeys Beyond the Stereotypes of Autism
Donna Williams (2004) Jessica Kingsley Publishers
by Roger N. Meyer
Copyright 2004
All Rights Reserved

 


I've always been puzzled by Donna Williams' books, especially her last two before this one. The first three I read in haste in the early days following my diagnosis, and I was singularly unmoved by her confused syntax. The effect on me as a reader was my conclusion that she couldn't tell a coherent story about herself. I felt her earlier autobiographical books were  strangely removed from being a window to her soul. As with many first-time authors, her books were written out of a strong need to tell others her story so that she'd at last be able to tell the same story to herself. That it took her four such books to do so, before this one, means that for those first four books, she wasn't happy with her own story. She wasn't happy with herself. To a casual reader like myself, her earlier stories of herself made me unhappy and unsatisfied as well.

This one, however, is a keeper. It openly explores her intimate relationships with animals and people in her life. It is a book free from fear. It is unlike her oddly written "Like Colour to the Blind" which describes an aspect of her life with her first long-time partner Ian, but in a distant, non-connected way. There's no discussion of love in that earlier book. Even though "Like Colour to the Blind" is an additional self-revelatory glimpse, I also felt it was riddled with self-loathing. For me, published self-flagilation doesn't make a particularly enjoyable story. As she described family and friends, her observations seemed written from a sterile and very autistically disconnected vantage point. Until this most recent book of hers, I figured "this is who she is." Interesting, complex, but disconnected.

"Everyday Heaven" is all about connection. Connections with herself that make sense to others. Connections with others that make some degree of sense to them...until she discovers and finally explores her sexuality, her personal sense of power and her love for Chris, her husband.

This is the best book she's written, not only from the point of autobiography but from the point of clarity and celebrating her sense of center. Part of the book describes her way through immune system and gut complications and sensory issues that have dogged her life; part of the book is a diary of things going wrong, as in her earlier books.

But this last book is the first book I'd recommend folks in autistic relationships to really read. It's a fast read, only about 170 or so pages. It isn't the kind of book one "mustn't put down," but if you can, do try to read it within a couple of days.

Themes of discovery and joy resonate within the book. Its vignettes clearly portrary how her relationships have worked or haven't worked. In one special regard, it is a book about two special people, but not special in the sense that Ian was special. Ian was a toxic force in her life. Although Donna knew that all along, she couldn't shake him until she was ready to grow up herself and purge herself of other toxins as well.

And she has.

This book is an annunciatory book, a book describing a forward-looking personal journey through the thicket of relationships. Without much indication, from its title, that it's a breakthrough book, it definitely is.

At long last, Donna has made it to the world of everyday language and everyday feelings. In this regard, it's a celebration of a recent journey from which even a cynical reader can conclude that for her, there is no turning back.

It is a book written in a very personal way by an author wry with her words and sharp in her observations. For the first time, I feel that she has shared herself without demanding that they buy into her neologisms or insisting that the reader retreat with her into bouts of confusion, disorientation and lapses of capacity to initiate action or take charge, rather than merely taking control. Readers familiar with autism will recognize the difference.

During her bouts of confusion, she gives the reader permission to "wait outside." That's a relief because it's permission that acknowledges the privacy of the moment and the sensibility of strangers.

There's nothing confusing about this book. At long last, there is little confusing about this remarkably talented, complex, sensitive person.

She tells you so in simple, clear language.

And you can believe it.

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Donna Williams website

To Buy

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Love, Jean - Inspiration for Families Living with Dysfunction of Sensory Integration by A. Jean Ayres, Philip R. Erwin, Zoe Mailloux

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The Other Half of Aspereger Syndrome by Maxine Aston

 

 

"We each have our own way of living in the world, together we are like a symphony.
Some are the melody, some are the rhythm, some are the harmony
It all blends together, we are like a symphony, and each part is crucial.
We all contribute to the song of life."
...Sondra Williams

We might not always agree; but TOGETHER we will make a difference.

 

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