Odd Girl Out by Laura James
Learning you were autistic all along
Following Autism Awareness week, don’t miss this insightful debut by Laura James.
Like many other women in their 30s and 40s who have lived their entire lives without being diagnosed as autistic, Laura had become super smart at camouflaging her disorder to fit into society but always felt she didn’t quite belong. Odd Girl Out is disarmingly and brilliantly candid. Written from the heart but without an overly indulged ‘poor me’ element you might see in biographical books, you get an authentic sense of what it feels like to be autistic.
To call the book a ‘confessional’ seems wrong considering the very nature of autism is often rooted in an inherent need for honesty – the sort of honesty that most ‘neurotypical’ people feel puzzled and even angry by, since society largely deems such levels as unacceptable. In fact, you get the impression that this is probably how Laura is in real-life – when she, (and no doubt thousands of others), feels no need to camouflage her autism and can ‘just be’.
As well as getting an insight into the relentlessness of the challenges Laura experiences as an autistic mother, wife and career woman pre-diagnosis, you get to see the impact of her disorder on her photographer husband, Tim, who suffers with his own mental health problems. It’s hard not to embrace this couple who work with – not against – one another and their differences despite the head-on difficulties at times.
The book launch was timed to coincide with World Autism Awareness Week at the end of March, which has focused attention on the experiences of adult women like Laura who have gone undiagnosed until late in life. Through Laura’s exhausting experiences from childhood to current day, Odd Girl Out explores the chameleon-like skills developed over time that kept her autism such a well-hidden secret for so long – and the relief, (and frustration), she feels at learning she has Aspberger’s Syndrome, a form of high functioning autism.
The journey towards coming to terms with this little understood disorder, the emerging coping mechanisms and the steps towards self-acceptance makes this a genuinely fascinating read. Hard to put down and in places, prompting some self-inquiry(!) and possibly a greater understanding of some people you may know, Odd Girl Out is definitely a book of the times, which readers will relish if they are interested in what makes people – and society – tick.
Odd Girl Out (Published by Pan Macmillan) is available from Amazon and all good book stores.