“Book Review: Living with Autism”
Reviewed by Chika Anene
An honest, funny, and often heartbreaking account of what it’s like to live on the autism spectrum
Living with Autism is a memoir that details both the early and current years of Zachariah Atteberry. In it, the author discusses the challenges he faced growing up with autism and how his love for cats helped him find purpose. It’s an inspirational read that encourages us to empathize with others who might be different and a motivating read for those on the spectrum to follow their dreams.
The author describes his early years as quite turbulent. He spends a good amount of those years living in a foster home — due to his mother battling cancer — and having to put up with an abusive foster caregiver. Atteberry recalls being fed terrible food and sometimes even being starved by the caregiver who ran the foster home. This woman wreaks havoc on anyone who questions her, and she even hides and spends the money that’s meant for the children in her care. Escaping the foster home feels like his only choice, his only chance for a new start.
“Unless you are a paragon of self-confidence, the feeling of being unsure of yourself ebbs at you like frost through a leaf.”
The author vividly illustrates the everyday trials of having autism, like when it lands him in trouble for his inability to communicate in a manner “acceptable to society.” It’s a way in for readers to recognize unexpected daily struggles; even the changing of a routine can throw you off balance and cause others to see you as difficult and stubborn. As readers, we can’t help but empathize with Zachariah here and root for the next time someone will see the true him.
And even though he spends most of his time trying to make himself invisible, his need for order (like repeating phrases aloud) makes him an easy target for bullies. But as with many inspirational stories, Zachariah finds his way to purpose through the thing he loves the most—cats. His passion gets him through the difficult times, while it reminds readers that we can find something to love in order to thrive.
The book, while heartbreaking, still has a lot of funny and relatable stories packed into it. This can easily send the reader back to the memories of their own childhood, but that doesn’t come only with the positive memories. While reading, I found myself revisiting my own past and recognizing the all-too-familiar concern of feeling like an outsider.
What stands out to me here is not only the insights of one particular human on the spectrum but the connection I now feel with others on it. I have no problem saying that this will go down as one of my favorite nonfiction books of the year. It certainly is something I won’t be forgetting any time soon.
Category: Nonfiction / Memoir
Paperback: 230 pages
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