By Naoki Higashida,
Introduced by David Mitchell
Translated by David Mitchel and K A Yoshida
This aspirational book by Higashida provides a unique perspective into the wonderful mind of an autistic nonverbal man proving that although he does not speak, he has a lot to say. Higashida also has another book he wrote in his teens called ‘The Reason I Jumped’ which tells the stories of people with autism and this book has been adapted into a movie with the same name in 2021. The ‘Fall Down Seven Times Get Up Eight’ book begins with a foreword by the translator David Mitchell a famous writer of the book Cloud Atlas, who explores the process of how the book was translated into English from its original written language of Japanese, as well as the struggles Higashida had to be taken seriously when he tried to publish and write the book. The forward also describes Mitchell’s struggles and joys of raising a nonverbal autistic son and how Higashida’s book has helped him by shedding light on what was going on in the mind of an autistic person
The title of the book draws upon the popular Zen traditional proverb about being resilient in the face of defeat and continue to keep going no matter how many times you get knocked by a difficulty or challenge. I really enjoyed the positive message of the title and found it really inspirational and helpful to reminder to be resilient and carry on in the face of challenges. This proverb also goes well with the theme and messages of the book, with Higashida writing about his daily battles and challenges he faces to understand the world around him and how to understand the small things.
Within the book Higashida describes how small but beautiful details of the world consume him and his attention. For example, a beautiful scene in the book was when Higashida describes rain and how his autistic mind breaks it down into small aspects of sound and how he searches for similar sounds in his memory to understand what he is experiencing. Higashida goes on to explain how his mind is different of that to a neurotypical, and how the processes the neurotypical mind does are different and confusing. For example, he describes the confusion he had when his mother could quickly identify the sound of rain and the need to get the washing in to avoid getting the washing wetter, where he was still processing what the noise was and whether he has ever heard it before and how it made him feel. The chapters of the book are each captivating and enlightening and provides a true insight into the wonderful mind of autism in an honest way, which I think this honesty is what makes the book so wonderful to read and so different to other books about autism.
The book is written in short chapters, which I really enjoyed as it was easy to follow along with what Higashida was telling. The short chapters made what Higashida sound more powerful as he gets straight to his point and does not waste his words, allowing to get a strong sense of his emotions and thoughts which made the book so powerful and inspiring without aiming to be.
Having this insight into the mind of a neurodiverse in this book was a truly beautiful experience. Reading this book, it has really opened my eyes and I have gained more understanding into the world of autism. The book has provided a great opportunity for the voice of neurodiverse people to be heard and seen in a way suited to them and shows the world how unique and brilliant their minds are whilst educating about differences and struggles they face on a daily basis. This memoir has really helped to change the narrative when speaking about autism, by inspiring and giving a voice to people who have been misunderstood and silenced by society.
A great strength of this book is that it is written by a neurodiverse person, this is a great alternative to other books about autism which are often written by neurotypical people who are attempting to understand the mind of autistic people. Unlike those books, this book by Higashida is written by autistic people and allows a change in dialogue to be made. This book has really showed that although people may be nonverbal and viewed as ‘low functioning’ due to the lack of verbal communication they are highly intellectual people, and the focus should not be on if they conform to the neurotypical expectations. Within this book Higashida explores the beauty and the difficulties autism brings to his life and by doing so gives a voice to people who are often misunderstood and allows a narrative to be formed that encourages people to speak up about their autism by providing the freedom and relief of being heard and understood. The narrative of the book is very empowering and inspiring, he writes about the need to feel accepted, to be valued and to contribute no matter how small to the world. I feel Higashida as succeeded to do contribute massively as he has spoken up about his life and has helped support other autistic people by offering advice such as how to cope with feeling depressed, by turning a negative memory of failing to one of victory then he can overcome his feelings of failure.
Overall, Fall Down Seven Times Get Up Eight is a truly inspiring and empowering book that shines a light on autism in a new and realistic manner. I would recommend this book to everyone, as everyone will benefit from reading this book as it teaches important lessons about keep going even when faced with challenges and no matter what you are still valued and seen. The book is a really interesting read and offers answers to some questions you may about autism, in a way that you can take what you need and leave the rest as Higashida tells that his experience of autism is not universal, as autism comes in many shapes and forms.
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