“The Reason I Jump” by Naoki Higashida. A reading from the book.
Introduced by David Mitchell.
LIKE MANY CHILDREN with autism, 13- year-old Naoki Higashida had spent years locked inside his own seemingly impenetrable world. Without the power of speech his feelings were expressed through explosions of temper, panic attacks and tears.
For those who loved and supported him – as for so many others in their position – Naoki’s inner feelings remained a painful and frustrating mystery.
Then, one day, a teacher gave Naoki a simple cardboard keyboard. He began to share his world, pointing at the letters to spell out his feelings – letter by letter, word by word.
Now, eight years after they were first written, Naoki’s thoughts are giving a remarkable insight not only into his own emotions, wishes and quirky humour, but also into those of countless other autistic children.
Acclaimed writer David Mitchell (author of “Cloud Atlas,” and “Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet”) and his wife Keiko Yoshida have translated Naoki’s book, “The Reason I Jump” into English, creating an unexpected best-seller and a uniquely powerful insight into autism.
Mitchell and Yoshida were motivated to translate Naoki’s book because their own son has autism.
They were bombarded with sympathy and advice – most of it well- intentioned, not much of it particularly useful to their situation. There are already many books and articles about this subject. Yet amongst the academic texts, memoirs written by other parents, and autobiographies produced by adults, Mitchell found little which gave him a particular insight into his son’s world.
In the introduction Mitchell wrote to accompany Naoki’s words, he describes how finding “The Reason I Jump” changed that. His wife had heard about the book on the internet and ordered a copy from her native Japan. Finally the couple found writing which offered a real connection with their son. The book was, he writes “a revelatory godsend. If felt as if, for the first time, our own son was talking to us about what was happening inside his head, through Naoki’s words.”
Most exhilarating for Mitchell and Keiko was the proof that despite the communication and behavioural difficulties of autism, a mind affected by the condition could be just as inquisitive, subtle and complex as anyone else’s. Naoki may have struggled to express his emotions vocally, but he was as capable of feeling them as any other 13-year-old.
The proof is in the pudding, which is very clear from the reading above.
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