Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Book Review: Born on a Blue Day (2007)

Born on a Blue Day: Inside the Extraordinary Mind of an Autistic Savant begins with Daniel Tammet sharing how he visualizes numbers. To him, they're shapes and colors that make him feel warm or comfortable or uneasy. Then he describes growing up and slowly realizing that he's different. Daniel has Asperger's, and autistic people typically have issues with expressing (or even feeling) "appropriate" emotion. He talks about viewing other children as noisy, moving objects to be avoided; spending hours at a time just sitting and thinking in his room; obsessively collecting favored items; being overwhelmed by changes; and his family's enduring support for him all his life. Daniel starts to become independent after a year volunteering in Lithuania (where he learned to speak the language fluently), and his journey takes him to his record-setting recitation of 22,500+ digits of pi when he was 25. He also meets Kim Peek, the inspiration for Rain Man, when they film the documentary Brain Man. In between, he falls in love, launches an educational website, and learns a few other languages.

Born on a Blue Day is a great read because Daniel is an engaging writer. He communicates ideas simply and in logical sequence. He comes across as humble and self-aware. He's relatable. He was the bullied kid who sat down and waited for the bullies to go away. He was that boy who stood a little too close to you. He was that guy who went on and on with encyclopedic knowledge about a topic that interested him. In other words, he's that awkward person that we all sometimes are, except his brain works differently from ours. Through his book, he introduces us to a different world, Planet Autism Spectrum, now inhabited by 1 in 88 kids in the US, according to the CDC.

After reading this book, I've invented a new term for my condition: I am autastic. It's like the opposite of autistic. To be autastic, you must:
  • have a keen awareness of personal space 
  • have the ability to read between the lines, even when there are no lines
  • be unable to visualize numbers 
  • be incapable of quiet introspection
  • change your mind every five seconds
  • overcommunicate
Like autism, autasticism is brought on by a combination of factors, including genetics, a diet high in fried fat and oils, and vaccines. Because I am generous, the term autastic may also apply to someone who has autism and is hot. Let me know when you meet someone autastic like me; it's lonely being so unique.

Daniel Tammet has another book, Embracing the Wide Sky. What say I read it and check back in with you, eh?