Friday, November 21, 2014

Can a Book Be Autistic?

I remember reading some years ago about James Joyce's Finnegans Wake being "diagnosed" as schizophrenic.  Although Joyce himself was never diagnosed as such (his daughter was), the notion that a book could possess a psyche (and neurology) all its own has intrigued me ever since.

So, when I had parents of autistic children tell me that my books were autistic, I had to smile inside  of myself while I thought of the "schizophrenic" Finnegans Wake.  And because an autistic child had already come out of me, it didn't seem that surprising that autistic books could come out of me, too.

Readers may wonder, "Are Candace Ryan's books really autistic?"  Depending on various factors and conditions, parents of newly diagnosed children may also wonder to themselves, "Is my child really autistic?"  Well, after living with my own autistic child and my own books over the years, I can definitely confirm their mildly autistic orientations to the world.

To imagine my books as autistic feels quite natural to me.  As a matter of fact, viewing them this way actually resolves and clarifies a lot of questions I've had in the process of writing children's books and getting them published.  I will dive into the specifics of how I believe my own books are autistic in future posts.  In the meantime, I want to further explore some possibilities for defining an autistic literature.

My whole purpose for writing this blog is to encourage thinking about and creating autistic literature for children, literature that respects and aims to connect with the experience of being autistic.  At this juncture, I should mention that I do believe autistic books are already circulating among us-- for both adults and children.  For the most part, it is simply a matter of these books finally being recognized as such.  

Nowadays, the advances in information science, technology, and our understanding of autism have helped bridge a connectivity gap for autistic and non-autistic people alike.  As a result, a unique opportunity exists for authors, illustrators, editors, and publishers to approach the creation of autistic literature with a greater sense of purpose and intentionality.

To this end, I have identified three "E's" of autistic literature: sensory, modality, and affinity.  I believe these three features most fundamentally define the characteristics of autistic books.  My next post will illustrate the "what's and how's" of it.