How to Be Human: An Autistic Man’s Guide to Life

S. & S. Apr. 2021. 192p. ISBN 9781501180507. $26. MEMOIR
In this debut, Fleming talks about what it’s like to live in a society that was not designed for him. Despite the difficulties society imposes on him, and on others who live with autism, Fleming has thrived. He studied geography and marine science at the University of South Carolina and earned a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford to continue his education. The words in this book are Fleming’s; they have been organized by writer and editor Winik, who includes her own observations from her interactions with Fleming. Chapters feature a Q&A format, showing a conversation between two friends about personal experiences. Fleming often expresses his thoughts in vivid metaphors and imagery; he stresses that his experience is unique to him, and not representative of all autistic people. This comes across especially clearly where Fleming shares his preferences for terminology and his thoughts on disability advocacy. Perhaps the most affecting sections of the book focus on communication and language, and how words and body language can easily be misinterpreted.
VERDICT A unique memoir showing the importance of diversity of thought. Fleming also makes clear the lasting impacts of language. An ideal complement to I Have Been Buried under Years of Dust, by Valerie Gilpeer and Emily Grodin.
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