As those of you who've been reading Autism's Edges for a while are aware, I'm known to be mildly to moderately kvetchy. Kvetching is Yiddish for complaining, hopefully in a sort of robust, community-building sort of way. Kvetching is one thing that New Yorkers are famous for, along with the Mets, the Nathan's hot dog, and the Empire State Building. But this week I wasn't kvetching much because this was one of those weeks when one relishes the centrality of the congested, noisy, expensive place that is New York City — because this week the city could have been famous for autism culture, from Javits Center to the Empire State Building.
First there was Book Expo America at the Javits Center: the annual conference of the book industry that brought Kim and Fran Peek, John Elder Robison, and Ralph James Savarese to the city. I missed the Peeks' joint book signing of The Real Rainman, and I didn't succeed in snagging a copy of the galleys of John Elder Robison's forthcoming Look Me in the Eye, but I did have the pleasure of meeting Ralph Savarese at his Book Expo signing and then heard him and his son D.J. read on Wednesday evening at Syracuse University's Lubin House on East 61st Street.
Above: The Savarese family reads from Reasonable People and other texts.
Meanwhile, on my own autism-mom front, I spent most of Wednesday doing half-hearted school applications for Sweet M, looking as we are for a more appropriate and supportive setting for her. Then on Thursday there was the social studies fair at her school, where I got to see that she understands considerably more about immigration than we or her teachers give her credit for.
Above: Sweet M's model of a turn-of-the-nineteenth-to-twentieth century Lower East Side tenement.
On Thursday evening I heard more than a half a dozen autism parents and autistic individuals including autism-mom blogger Kim Stagliano who blogs about life with her three autistic daughters on Arianna Huffington's Post; Michele Pierce Burns and Michele Iallonardi who have been active with Autism Speaks; and fiction writer and autism mom Barbara Fischkin, who organized the reading, billed as the “First Annual Writers on Autism.” Let's hope it's the first of many. Autistic college student and writer Rachel Kaplan co-read from her work with her mother; John Robison read from his forthcoming memoir (Robison is also the sibling of bestselling Running With Scissors author Augusten Burroughs); novelist Sheila Kohler read a fictionalized account of a grandmother's encounter with her daughter's denial of the deafness in her child; and Landon J. Napoleon read from his novel ZigZag.
It's been a big week, and it hasn't felt like Autism's Edges, but rather like Autism Central.
There is much to think about from each of these events . . . and I'll be mulling things over for the next couple of days . . . thinking through what I heard and saw and felt, writing more about Ralph Savarese's book, and mulling over the politics of autisms' communities.
The thing that was clearest this week is that there isn't any one thing called autism at all, or even anything as simple and sequential as an autism spectrum announces itself to be. There are so many autisms, and so many responses to life with autism. Even as we ask the wider world to embrace neurological diversity, I hope we'll embrace the neurodiversity, the autisms, among us.