Book Review: How to be Autistic by C. A. Poe
In 2018 Charlotte Amelia Poe won the Spectrum Art Prize for a spoken word art piece called “How to be Autistic”. The piece is very honest, and is quite dark, and you can watch it below. It starts with the phrase “You will be told you are a trouble maker, that the thing you cannot put into words yet that divorces you from everyone else is….“. It is about the experience of being Autistic.
After winning the prize she was offered the opportunity to write a book about it. The book has the same name, How to be Autistic, and was published in 2019. It starts with the same words and delves into her story. This is a review of that book.
I was diagnosed as Autistic a few months ago, and since then have been reading about all things Autism. Rather than focusing on my usual academic approach I have been focusing on real stories of real experiences. This led me to Charlottes amazing video and later to buying her book.
The book is about her experiences growing up and since then, tracing through her school days, bullies, torments, medication, college, through a period she calls her ‘lost years’ and finally through self-discovery, diagnosis, art and the light at the end of the tunnel. You can see how being undiagnosed Autistic impacted her again and again. She is really frank when it comes to her relationship with authorities and services and how these have shaped her. Her story is very relatable, and it doesn’t skim over the hard parts.
The book is really well written, and is easy to understand. She very much talks to the reader rather than simply describing stuff. Some parts are quite light, but it is also very emotional in places, and it is a really raw view of the reality of what people just don’t see from the outside.
“help unravel a few of those mysteries for you, or at least, give an insight into my life and what it has meant for me to be autistic”
I think she sums it up herself really well when she says on page 10 that she hopes she can
I couldn’t say I enjoyed it per se, it is too sad a story in many places, but it’s an excellent and accessible book. I wish I had come across it earlier in my journey (it hadn’t been published, but still). It would be an excellent book for anyone who wants to understand Autistic experiences and perspectives, not just for those who are or suspect they are Autistic, but for everyone who wants to try to understand.
Final Verdict: I highly recommend this book. It is available through all major book sellers and many public libraries.