Posted on April 15, 2014 in Autism
I have every book Donna Williams has ever written, but Nobody Nowhere remains my favorite simply because it is the first book I ever read about autism. I was twenty-two, new to teaching, and knew next to nothing about autism. The social worker at my school recommended this book and I read it in one sitting. I highlighted content on nearly every page and bookmarked dozens of passages to share with others. I still have this copy and continue to reference it regularly.
Williams story is not an easy one to read. It is filled with accounts of abuse, pain, and challenges, but it is also beautifully written. I am particularly drawn to the many stories about teaching, learning, and support like this one about an educator who allowed Williams to dive into a study of U.S. Civil Rights:
While the other teachers found me a devil, this teacher found me to be bright, amusing, and a pleasure to teach. At the end of the term, I handed her the most important piece of schoolwork any of my high school teachers had received.
The students had all been given a set date and topic on which to write. I had been intrigued by the way black people had been treated in America in the sixties.
I told my teacher that what I wanted to do was a secret, and she agreed to extend my due date as I enthusiastically informed her of the growing length of my project. I had gone through every book I could find on the topic, cutting out pictures and drawing illustrations over my written pages, as I had always done, to capture the feel of what I wanted to write about. The other students had given her projects spanning an average of about three pages in length. I proudly gave her my special project of twenty-six pages, illustrations, and drawings. She gave me an A. (p. 81)
These kinds of stories have helped me guide teachers for the past twenty years. If you like this anecdote there are many more in the pages of this honest and sometimes-heartbreaking account.
** Idea for using this book: If you have a small group interested in autobiographies, consider creating a “Donna Williams” book circle. Each person can choose a different book (e.g., Somebody Somewhere; Like Colour to the Blind; Autism & Sensing) and share a summary with the group.