Songs of the Gorilla Nation

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I can’t decide what I think about Dawn Prince-Hughes’ Songs of the Gorilla Nation. On a purely literary level, I’m generally not impressed. The organization of the novel has been difficult to follow, and on several occasions I have had a hard time understanding the chronology. Often, there are events in her life that I would consider very significant and impacting, but she barely mentions them, and other times she will delve into great detail about things I would generally overlook. I’m sure that this is an example of our divergent personalities, but it also makes it more difficult to relate to her or understand her.

That brings me to a different thought. Is this novel supposed to be a way to understand her? Does Prince-Hughes want her readers to be able to relate to her? I am reminded of our discussion in class on Thursday, about autistic writers, specifically Emily Dickenson writing not for her readers but for herself. I am hesitant to attribute Prince-Hughes’ style to a claim made about Dickenson, but it is interesting to think about.

As I’m reading, I keep making comparisons between the thought processes of the main characters in Gorilla Nation and Curious Incident. Reading Curious Incident really gave me an insight into an autistic mind, and Gorilla Nation has been a reiteration of the message we’ve been learning all semester: no autistic person is the same as another. The character Dawn is different from Christopher in nearly every way. I think Gorilla Nation gives a much more personal, affective portrayal of life with autism, being a memoir based on the author’s life instead of a fictional account by a neuroptypical writer.

I find what Prince-Hughes writes about to be very engaging. Her descriptions of the gorillas are captivating and completely unlike a lot of the images I have of gorillas. Her entire life story is incredible and inspiring. The novel overall is very thoughtful and poignant, if at times difficult to follow. The ultimate message of finding and pursuing one’s passion remains prominent.

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