The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, a widespread phenomenon of a book that has finally made its way to theatre!
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is a fantastic book that centres around a young man called Christopher, who just so happens to be Autistic. He’s is thrown into an exciting and frightening adventure trying to find out exactly what’s been going on around him. But don’t get me wrong; this book is not an insight into the world of Asperger’s, it’s just something he deals with.
So what is Autism?
Autism is a lifelong developmental disability that affects how people perceive the world around them and how they react, communicate and interact with other people. Autism affects people in very different ways. Some people may not speak at all, others may be able to speak perfectly well, but have difficulty in knowing what’s expected of them in a conversation.
Around 700,000 people across the UK are somewhere on the ever-expanding Autism spectrum, that’s around 2.8 million that are impacted. That’s an incredible chunk of UK population that are underrepresented in entertainment. As a reader myself, I like to be able to relate to a protagonist, that’s what makes literature so personal, seeing yourself in the characters on a page. But for those 2.8 million people, it’s incredibly difficult to find a book whose main character reflects their life.
That is why I’m writing this piece. To shine a light on a couple of great characters of modern fiction that maybe you can relate to, either as an individual with autism, parent, sibling or friend.
#1 is an International Bestseller called ‘The Reason I jump’. The author of this book is an incredibly capable 13 year old boy living with Autism. His name is Naoki Higashida and throughout this book he describes what goes on inside of his mind on a day to day basis. The introduction to this book is written by author David Mitchell after he hailed it a ‘revelatory godsend’ that offered an insight into the mind of his own son.
#2 is a book called ‘Shtum’ which was featured on the BBC Radio 2 Book Club. Shtum is about the fragile situation of a couple struggling to accept and who don’t know how to deal with an autistic son as well as the stresses of their own feelings and commitments. Jonah is 10 years old and completely dependent on his parents, making no progress in primary school and showing no signs of developing communication through speech. However, through the process of fighting for Jonah, his parents learn things about themselves they didn’t necessarily want to know.
Being Autism Awareness Week, it’s important that we acknowledge the struggle both parents and autistic people go through. Often it’s the fault of society that these people feel like they’re ostracised and discriminated against. Having more Autistic characters in literature can help hundreds of thousands of people feel less alone. That should be something we all strive for.