Poe’s voice is confident, moving and often funny, as she reveals to us a very personal account of autism, mental illness, gender and sexual identity.
As we follow Charlotte’s journey through school and college, we become as awestruck by her extraordinary passion for life as by the enormous privations that she must undergo to live it. From food and fandom, to body modification and comic conventions, Charlotte’s experiences through the torments of schooldays and young adulthood leave us with a riot of conflicting emotions: horror, empathy, despair, laugh-out-loud amusement and, most of all, respect. For Charlotte, autism is a fundamental aspect of her identity and art. She addresses her reader in a voice that is direct, sharply clever and ironic. She witnesses her own behaviour with a wry humour as she sympathises with those who care for her, yet all the while challenging the neurotypical narratives of autism as something to be ‘fixed’.
‘I wanted to show the side of autism that you don’t find in books and on Facebook. My story is about survival, fear and, finally, hope. There will be parts that make you want to cover your eyes, but I beg you to read on, because if I can change just one person’s perceptions, if I can help one person with autism feel like they’re less alone, then this will all be worth it.’
Punctuated by her poetry, this is an exuberant, inspiring, life-changing insight into autism from a viewpoint almost entirely missing from public discussion.
how do you explain anxiety to someone?
is it the hitch in your breathing and then
the tightness in your chest
as you try to catch yourself
and remind yourself that you’re still standing
but your legs want to fold
and your brain is telling you that it’s not safe
and you haven’t been safe for a long time now
you can’t remember what it felt like not to feel the gnaw
and you can’t remember when it switched from
wanting not to cause a scene
to wanting to cause a scene
because if you collapse you get to leave
people will notice and care and treat you like spun sugar
but when you make your legs stride and your lungs burn
nobody is going to help you
and you’d cry if you had the air to do so
but instead you keep walking
and in that moment
you’d face a firing squad
because a bullet to the brain
is easier than meeting the eyes of a stranger