Written by then 13-year-old Naoki, The Reason I Jump is a wonderful collection that answers the never-ending slew of questions regarding autism. Naoki has autism; he has a hard time communicating and every day social situations make him nervous and frustrated. But his language isn’t stunted. He’s intelligent, charming, and driven to achieve his goals and dreams. Inspired to educate the world on the mystery of the autistic brain, Naoki wrote this book, answering questions like “why do you talk so loud?”, “why don’t you make eye contact?” and, yes, even “why do you jump?”
A genre that I’ve recently grown to love and look for is the “successful and funny women writing about their successful and funny lives” genre. I enjoyed reading the tales of Tina Fey and Mindy Kaling but nothing filled my heart quite like the witty and relatable stories of Lauren Graham in Talking as Fast as I Can, which I’ve admittedly read more than once. From her beginnings as a DC local, to her college years on stage and her performances as the endearing Lorelei Gilmore and the rebellious Sarah Braverman, Graham opens the door to her life in a way that will make fans love her more than they already do. But back off she’s mine, okay?
Pardlo’s memoir is by turns analytical, angry, ironic, raw and emotional. A Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, he fortifies his prose with images that jolt reflection and meditation to something closer to lived and felt experience. He pictures his father’s dim Vegas apartment with “sunlight slipping under a window shade like a hotel bill.” On strike with the air traffic controllers in 1981, he sees how “our picket line warps in the heat.” While this vertiginous memoir covers Pardlo’s youth, brief Marine reserves stint, false-starting college career, two marriages, alcoholism, parenthood, and the constant negotiations of race, its center is Pardlo’s relationship with his father. A demanding man, both blunt and cryptic, the elder Pardlo tested his son with a rigorous trial-by-dictionary that required the second-grader to look up an assigned word, memorize the definition, and learn all other unfamiliar words it referenced. That this “ordeal” gave Pardlo a love of language rather than an aversion to it, is amazing. And on writing, Pardlo is eloquent: “Poetry answers no prayers. Poetry is useless to me but in one way. Reading it makes me a nicer person” by opening him to the needs and desires of others. Among the standouts in this impressive overview of a life, are Pardlo’s insightful profiles of the family dynamics of alcoholism, and the sheer exuberance of family life. “Behind The Wheel” could almost be a short story, as the voices of three generations quibble, explain, protest, and joke, all at the same time.