I just finished a controversial new book, To Siri With Love by Judith Newman. Reading this book made me feel like memoirs from autism moms are a thing whose time has come and gone . . .
At the same time, I can’t help but believe the publisher who brought this story to market, and the reviewers who praised it, must not share that opinion. And of course the author does not seem to hold that opinion either. I’ve no doubt she loves her autistic son and wants the best for him.
So why do I find this book troubling, even as the non-autistic literary community has lavished praise upon it? And lest you think it’s just me that is troubled . . . the reason I read the book was the storm of tweets and messages I received from autistic people urging me to boycott or criticize it.
Perhaps this is an autistic thing. Maybe it’s a situation where non-autistics find a story about one of our tribe interesting or entertaining, even as we autistics find the same words deeply troubling.
Without giving it all away, I’d say the author’s attitudes toward her son, her family, and autism appear to be at odds with the set of values and ideals that is taking shape among autistic self advocates today. It would be a great understatement to say the author’s views would be aggressively challenged by, for example, the neurodiversity students at a university like my own William & Mary. . . . more