Book review: The Reason I Jump: voice from the silence of autism

April 13, 2021

Visual from cover of novel ‘The Reason I Jump’

Exposure’s autistic author Max Ferreira reads how a young Japanese writer addresses his experience on the spectrum

A few years ago I read an interesting novel called ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time’ by Mark Haddon. Then one day during lockdown I decided to have a look at another book that explores the question of what’s it like to have autism. It’s called ‘The Reason I Jump’.

The Reason I Jump is a non-fiction book written by Naoki Higashida in 2007 and translated into English by David Mitchell six years later.

The Reason I Jump is about Naoki expressing his feelings and life experience, since being diagnosed with severe autism at the age of five. Unable to speak, Naoki found a way to communicate by using a Japanese alphabet grid and help from his mum and teachers in school.

In each chapter (around one or two pages), Naoki explains how young people like him experience the real world differently; whether it’s the way we behave, how we approach daily activities and question ourselves about being normal.

Naoki had also written some short stories in between chapters, like ‘A Story I Heard Somewhere’, about a girl who loves to dance. After eight days of non-stop dancing, she finally stops and realises the importance of life.

When someone reads the book they can visualise how young people like Naoki see the world differently, as well as how they can express their emotions

What I like about The Reason I Jump is how Naoki Higashida is able to tell his own personal experience and combine it with other young people on the spectrum going through similar challenges as they get older.

It’s interesting to learn, that before the book was translated, author David Mitchell and his wife had a son who’s diagnosed with autism. But when they discovered The Reason I Jump it helped them understand the characteristics of their own son.

Since translated into English in 2013, it has received positive attention from reviewers. One from Sunday Times said, “The Reason I Jump builds one of the strongest bridges yet constructed between the world of autism and neurotypical world.” This means when someone reads the book they can visualise how young people like Naoki see the world differently, as well as how they can express their emotions.

The book even inspired filmmaker Jerry Rothwell to adapt the book into a documentary, exploring the lives of young people with autism. See the trailer below.

As someone with autism I found The Reason I Jump encouraging, honest and well written. When I read the book I was surprised that some of Naoki’s experiences of autism relate to my own in the past and present.

Like Naoki I do like to write stories about my experience of autism, but in a fictional way with accompanying hand-drawn characters, like ‘Jodie’s Friendship Dream’.

I strongly recommend this unique book to anyone who wants to have a good understanding of how young people with autism respond to everyday challenges and addressing their true feelings.

If you want a copy of The Reason I Jump, it’s available to order from Amazon.

Our thanks to Thrive LDN’s Right To Thrive grant scheme for making this project possible.