Publisher's Note:  

Ever since he was young, John Robison 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, Augusten Burroughs, in them)—had earned him the label “social deviant.” It was not until he was forty that he was diagnosed with a form of autism called Asperger’s syndrome. That understanding transformed the way he saw himself—and the world. A born storyteller, Robison has written a moving, darkly funny memoir about a life that has taken him from developing exploding guitars for KISS to building a family of his own. It’s a strange, sly, indelible account—sometimes alien yet always deeply human.

Look Me in the Eye

by John Elder Robinson

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Overall Review:  

Look Me in the Eye is a touching memoir of growing up with Asperger's syndrome before it was identified and diagnosed as a form of Autism.  John Elder Robison shares with us his journey from "deviant child" and "social misfit" to successful business owner, husband, father, Asperger advocate, and finally bestselling author.  He tells his story with humor and insight and teaches us along the way that "Asperger's is not a disease.  It's a way of being.  There is no cure, nor is there a need for one".  He further states, "My days of hiding in the corner or crawling under a rock are over.  I am proud to be an Apergian."


From his description in Chapter 1 of correcting the "disorderly play habits" of other children, to his reasoning and method behind picking the best mate in Chapter 27, I was completely captivated by John Elder Robison's story.  He shares his memories with a sort of detached humor, making difficult events and circumstances seem less terrible, superficially at least.


Many of the memories shared by the author are heartbreaking, such as "All my attempts to make a friend had failed.  I was a failure.  I began to cry.  Alone in the corner of the playground, I sobbed and smashed the toy truck into the ground again and again....At the end of recess, I was still there, sitting by myself. Staring into the dirt". And "I was seldom laughing and happy, and I was never surrounded by kids.  I didn't fully understand the reasons why, but I knew their situation was better than mine, and it hurt to see what I was missing."


I was impressed with the author's resilience and sheer determination to succeed.  The family life he describes is absolutely crazy, yet he somehow manages to create a meaningful life for himself. He is able to recognize his social limitations and eventually trained himself to "act normal" even when doing so was counterintuitive to the way he was actually feeling. An amazing accomplishment!


Many stories in the book describe "tricking people" and "playing pranks" on people.  In his postscript, the author notes that "being a trickster" was a way for him to handle his frustration and "blow off steam", but also notes that no one was ever actually injured by his actions. These tricks and pranks are the source of most of the violence noted and although they are related as events that occurred, they are not described in graphic detail.


This could have been a difficult book to read, but I found it educational and positive.  The author could have tried to elicit sympathy from readers but didn't.  His primary purpose in sharing his story was to foster greater understanding and educate people about Asperger's syndrome.  I believe he was successful in his efforts and highly recommend this book to all interested readers.


VERY IMPORTANT NOTE:  I read the second, soft cover, edition of Look Me in the Eye which has been edited by the author for mature content.  According to the author's postscript, the original, hard cover edition, is "rough" and full of profane language.

Content Analysis:  

Profanity/Language:  4 mild obscenities, 1 derogatory name, 2 Scatological words, 4 Anatomical terms.


Violence/Gore:  5 brief descriptions of "tricking"/mischief; 3 extended descriptions of "pranks"/mischief; 2 second hand reports of death; 7 descriptions of destruction of property/explosions; 12 references of physical child abuse without graphic description, such as "my father spanked me hard"; 2 references to fantasy violence.


Sex/Nudity:  4 references of implied sexual activity; 3 references to purchasing "porn", without description; 1 mention of a character being bisexual without elaboration.

Mature Subject Matter:  

Plentiful mature subject matter including: death, mental illness, substance abuse, child abuse, divorce, physical/verbal/emotional abuse, adultery, underage drinking, illegal drug use, prostitution, abandonment, homelessness, bullying, sexual assult.

Alcohol / Drug Use:  

Mention of "coke trays" and punch bowls full of "coke" at a party; statement that acid, speed and mescaline were readily available without description of their use; description of smelling pot in the air at a party; reference to band members "doing line after line of coke"; mention of flushing pot, pills and coke down the toliet; many references such as "my father returned to his bottle of sherry" and "my father would drink wine by the bottle, a gallon bottle"--without further description.

Reviewed By Sherel
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