Look Me in the Eye: A Review

I realized recently that I hadn’t done a book review in a long time, and since last week I had the privilege of meeting and talking with John Elder Robison, I decided to write a review of Look Me in the Eye.

The quote across the top of the cover (actually, the boy’s forehead) says it all: “Endearing . . . Robison is a natural storyteller.” And that is exactly what’s so enjoyable about this book – his stories are captivating and entertaining. I loved reading about stories ranging from tricks he had played on a teacher who was mean to him and how he raised the money to do so, to how he got started restoring cars and taking radios apart, to how he got interested in guitars and amps and began working on them, which eventually led to his work with KISS. He tells stories about how he met his first girlfriend, how he interacted with his brother while growing up, and dealing with unstable parents. Reflected in all of his stories is a sense of empathy and his longing to connect with others and relate to them.

My favorite parts of the book include the chapter describing what it was like for him to be at a huge KISS concert, observing the magic of the lighting system that he designed and built. It’s an incredible passage written with details that made me feel like I was there, experiencing it. Definitely a must-read, along with the empowering chapter in which he figures out the cause of a major problem in one of the electronic toys manufactured by Milton Bradley. I also enjoyed the chapter which features Robison’s analysis of his process to develop socially and emotionally. His insight is remarkable, and anyone – parents of ASD children or not – reading his book has much to gain from it. I especially appreciate how he pointed out that child psychologists who observed “John prefers to play by himself” were completely wrong. The fact was that he did not know how to play and connect with others, not that he didn’t want to. It’s something that my son also struggled with, and continues to.

I loved reading about how Robison interacts with and teaches his son, the bond they share, and how he made peace with his parents later in life. The myth that people on the autism spectrum are not emotional is completely blown out of the water with this book. In the Postscript included in the paperback edition, Robison concludes with a plea: “I may look and act pretty strange at times, but deep down I just want to be loved and understood for who and what I am. I want to be accepted as part of society, not an outcast or outsider . . . I wish for empathy and compassion from those around me . . . I hope you’ll keep these thoughts in mind the next time you meet someone who looks or acts a little strange.” I will indeed. In fact, I already have. Look Me in the Eye is a fascinating story of life with Asperger’s – and being human. I highly recommend it.

4 thoughts on “Look Me in the Eye: A Review

  1. Cheryl

    Wow – it sounds like a good book! Thanks for the review, I’m going to check it out.

  2. Michelle S

    I love love love this book! I’m so jealous you all got to meet him and talk to him. how did that come about?? Thanks for doing the review. More people need to know about it.

  3. M

    “The myth that people on the autism spectrum are not emotional”

    this seems to be one of the most consistent misperceptions out there. very frustrating. i think the biggest one is that people on the spectrum do not enjoy social interactions. that’s slowly, sort of getting better, but i still hear it a lot from mental health professionals. that myth absolutely kills me. i think blogs, more than anything else, are doing all of the heavy-lifting, in terms of chipping away at the myths. “objective” professionals…they miss a lot of the nuances of the condition. “the client is not making friends…so they must not want friends”. i don’t know. i’m trying to imagine where a lot of this bad info comes from and it just seems like intellectual laziness.

  4. Tanya Savko Post author

    Michelle – it all started with a comment string on Jess Wilson’s blog that those who contributed to the service dog fund for Michelle O’Neil’s daughter should have a chance to win a dinner date with JER. So what started off as a joke actually came to fruition! John is such a good sport!

    M – Very good points. Someone should write a book expelling the myths. There are unfortunately so many.

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