I want to read more books about autistic women in 2021. Want to read along with me?
I'm an autistic woman who's also a big reader. I'm on track to read about 80 books this year. I know a lot of people manage more than that, but I've got kids, a job, and a blog, you know? There's only so much time in a day.
One genre I have really been enjoying are neurodiversity memoirs. As a woman was diagnosed with autism in my 30s, I really appreciate reading about about other women's journeys and experiences.
But, I don't know if you've been in a bookstore lately, but there are So Many Options! And I'm so thrilled that so many people are coming out about their experiences and struggles, but how do I, an autistic with really weak working memory, remember which book I want to read next?
So, for you and for me, here is a list of books by and about women on the autism spectrum, and issues that matter to them. I am not going to get through all of these books in 2021 - I'll tell you right now - but I am going to give it my best shot!
Looking for some books BY autistic women? I've got a list of those that I keep updated here.
Looking for more books on neurodiversity in general? Check out my list here!
Spectrum Women: Walking to the Beat of Autism edited by Barb Cook
"Autistic advocates including Liane Holliday Willey, Anita Lesko, Jeanette Purkis, Artemisia and Samantha Craft offer their personal guidance on significant issues that particularly affect women, as well as those that are more general to autism.
Contributors cover issues including growing up, identity, diversity, parenting, independence and self-care amongst many others. With great contributions from exceptional women, this is a truly well-rounded collection of knowledge and sage advice for any woman with autism."
I'm so excited about this collection! It sounds like it will cover a lot of good ground.
Odd Girl Out: My Extraordinary Autistic Life by Laura James
"From childhood, Laura James knew she was different. She struggled to cope in a world that often made no sense to her, as though her brain had its own operating system. It wasn't until she reached her 40s that she found out why: Suddenly and surprisingly, she was diagnosed with autism.
With a touching and searing honesty, Laura challenges everything we think we know about what it means to be autistic. Married with four children and a successful journalist, Laura examines the ways in which autism has shaped her career, her approach to motherhood, and her closest relationships.
Laura's upbeat, witty writing offers new insight into the day-to-day struggles of living with autism, as her extreme attention to sensory detail - a common aspect of her autism - is fascinating to observe through her eyes."
I know a lot of people who really love this memoir, and I can't wait to get my hands on it!
Women and Girls with Autism Spectrum Disorder: Understanding Life Experiences from Early Childhood to Old Age by Sarah Hendrickx
"In this book Sarah Hendrickx has collected both academic research and personal stories about girls and women on the autism spectrum to present a picture of their feelings, thoughts and experiences at each stage of their lives.
Outlining how autism presents differently and can hide itself in females and what the likely impact will be for them throughout their lifespan, the book looks at how females with ASD experience diagnosis, childhood, education, adolescence, friendships, sexuality, employment, pregnancy and parenting, and aging.
It will provide invaluable guidance for the professionals who support these girls and women and it will offer women with autism a guiding light in interpreting and understanding their own life experiences through the experiences of others."
I'm not sure if I want to read this one from cover to cover, but when a book is marketed toward professionals like this, I think it's important to find out what those professionals are learning from it. Is it a book I will want to recommend to any future psychologists or counselors I work with? We'll find out!
The Spectrum Girl's Survival Guide by Siena Castellon
"This essential go-to guide gives you all the advice and tools you'll need to help you flourish and achieve what you want in life. From the answers to everyday questions such as 'Am I using appropriate body language?' and 'Did I say the wrong thing?', through to discussing the importance of understanding your emotions, looking after your physical and mental health and coping with anxiety and sensory overloads, award-winning neurodiversity campaigner Siena Castellon uses her own experiences to provide you with the skills to overcome any challenge."
I am often asked for book recommendations for people who are newly diagnosed with autism, and so many terrible books exist that I don't have a go-to recommendation. It would be cool if this were short, to-the-point, and clear enough to recommend out.
Autism in Heels: The Untold Story of a Female Life on the Spectrum by Jennifer Cook O'Toole
"At the age of thirty-five, Jennifer was diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome, and for the first time in her life, things made sense. Now, Jennifer exposes the constant struggle between carefully crafted persona and authentic existence, editing the autism script with wit, candor, passion, and power. Her journey is one of reverse-self-discovery not only as an Aspie but--more importantly--as a thoroughly modern woman."
I'm a little suspicious of the "thoroughly modern woman" part of the description, but I'm very interested in how autistic women construct our identities. I hope this book will speak to that.
Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata
"The English-language debut of one of Japan’s most talented contemporary writers, Convenience Store Woman is the heartwarming and surprising story of thirty-six-year-old Tokyo resident Keiko Furukura.
Keiko has never fit in, neither in her family, nor in school, but when at the age of eighteen she begins working at the Hiiromachi branch of “Smile Mart,” she finds peace and purpose in her life.
In the store, unlike anywhere else, she understands the rules of social interaction―many are laid out line by line in the store’s manual―and she does her best to copy the dress, mannerisms, and speech of her colleagues, playing the part of a “normal” person excellently, more or less."
This is a fictional story, but because I know very little about how autism is perceived outside of English-speaking nations, I'm excited to see this Japanese piece translated and to learn more about how autism is women is sometimes perceived in Japan.
Aspergirls: Empowering Females with Asperger Syndrome by Rudy Simone
"This is a must-have handbook written by an Aspergirl for Aspergirls, young and old. Rudy Simone guides you through every aspect of both personal and professional life, from early recollections of blame, guilt, and savant skills, to friendships, romance and marriage.
Employment, career, rituals and routines are also covered, along with depression, meltdowns and being misunderstood. Including the reflections of over thirty-five women diagnosed as on the spectrum, as well as some partners and parents, Rudy identifies recurring struggles and areas where Aspergirls need validation, information and advice.
As they recount their stories, anecdotes, and wisdom, she highlights how differences between males and females on the spectrum are mostly a matter of perception, rejecting negative views of Aspergirls and empowering them to lead happy and fulfilled lives."
I've read Simone's 22 Things a Woman with Asperger's Syndrome Wants Her Partner to Know and didn't love it, but I've seen this book recommended so widely that I think it's worth giving the author another shot, especially if it is a good "handbook" to give newly diagnosed women.
"Cynthia Kim shares all the quirkyness of living with Asperger Syndrome (ASD) in this accessible, witty and honest guide. From being labelled nerdy and shy as an undiagnosed child to redefining herself when diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome as an adult, she describes how her perspective shifted to understanding a previously largely incomprehensible world and combines this with extensive research to explore the 'why' of ASD traits.
She explains how they impact on everything from self-care to holding down a job and offers typically practical and creative strategies to help manage them including a section on the benefits of martial arts for people with ASD.
Packed full of personal anecdotes and useful advice, this humorous, insider guide will be of immeasurable value to recently diagnosed autistic adults and their partners and family members, carers and mental health professionals working with people with autism, and anyone exploring whether they may be on the spectrum."
I really do like autism memoirs, and I identify with the idea of redefining yourself when you're diagnosed with autism after childhood. I think it's interesting that all of these books are marketed as user guides, manuals, or handbooks, and I wonder how accurate that really is.
Asperger's on the Inside by Michelle Vines
"Asperger's on the Inside is an acutely honest and often highly entertaining memoir by Michelle Vines about life with Asperger's Syndrome. The book follows Michelle in exploring her past and takes the reader with her on her journey to receiving and accepting her diagnosis.
Instead of rehashing widely available Asperger's information, Michelle focuses on discussing the thoughts, feelings and ideas that go along with being an Aspie, giving us a rare peek into what it really feels like to be a person on the spectrum.
A must read for all those who enjoy deep personal stories or have a loved one on the spectrum that they wish to understand better."
Another contender in the search for a memoir to recommend to the newly-diagnosed! This one has pretty good reviews, so I hope it has something original to recommend it.
Everyday Aspergers: A Journey on the Autism Spectrum by Samantha Craft
"Through 150 entries, Samantha Craft presents a life of humorous faux pas, profound insights, and the everyday adventures of an autistic female. In her vivid world, nothing is simple and everything appears pertinent. Even an average trip to the grocery store is a feat and cause for reflection.
From being a dyslexic cheerleader with dyspraxia going the wrong direction, to bathroom stalking, to figuring out if she can wear that panty-free dress, Craft explores the profoundness of daily living through hilarious anecdotes and heart-warming childhood memories.
Ten years in the making, Craft’s revealing memoir brings Asperger’s Syndrome into a spectrum of brilliant light—exposing the day-to-day interactions and complex inner workings of an autistic female from childhood to midlife."
I will admit that I usually will not bother with a book based on a diary, because I think diaries are almost always more interesting to the individual who wrote them than to other people. But Samantha Craft is a huge name, and many people have recommended this book to me, so I hope to be surprised!
Invisible Differences by Julie Dachez
"Marguerite feels awkward, struggling every day to stay productive at work and keep up appearances with friends. She's sensitive, irritable at times. She makes her environment a fluffy, comforting cocoon, alienating her boyfriend. The everyday noise and stimuli assaults her senses, the constant chatter of her coworkers working her last nerve.
Then, when one big fight with her boyfriend finds her frustrated and dejected, Marguerite finally investigates the root of her discomfort: after a journey of tough conversations with her loved ones, doctors, and the internet, she discovers that she has Aspergers. Her life is profoundly changed – for the better."
This is an autobiographical comic, which I believe has been recently translated into English from the original French. I love the idea of telling a memoir story in a comic format, and am also interested in the French perspective.
Divergent Mind: Thriving in a World That Wasn't Designed for You by Jenara Nerenberg
"As a successful Harvard and Berkeley-educated writer, entrepreneur, and devoted mother, Jenara Nerenberg was shocked to discover that her “symptoms”--only ever labeled as anxiety-- were considered autistic and ADHD. Being a journalist, she dove into the research and uncovered neurodiversity—a framework that moves away from pathologizing “abnormal” versus “normal” brains and instead recognizes the vast diversity of our mental makeups.
When it comes to women, sensory processing differences are often overlooked, masked, or mistaken for something else entirely. Between a flawed system that focuses on diagnosing younger, male populations, and the fact that girls are conditioned from a young age to blend in and conform to gender expectations, women often don’t learn about their neurological differences until they are adults, if at all.
Nerenberg offers us a path forward, describing practical changes in how we communicate, how we design our surroundings, and how we can better support divergent minds. When we allow our wide variety of brain makeups to flourish, we create a better tomorrow for us all."
This book is honestly going to be one of the first couple that I pick up, because I think a journalistic perspective is what's missing in the autism memoir genre. Someone who can tell their own story, as well as the stories of others, and who's trained to ask difficult questions about why autistic and neurodiverse women are consistently overlooked must have a unique perspective to add!