The genre of the books we’ve read in class have not, in my opinion, had much to do with the effectiveness of the book or the accuracy of the portrayal. I learned the most from Curious Incident, fictional, and Reasonable People, a memoir. Curious Incident was my first exposure to the possible thought process of an autistic person, although not explicitly, and it had a good balance of stereotypes that made it realistic, but not so many that it seemed unbelievable. Reasonable People was captivating and thought-provoking, though a little long and repetitive at times. The image of an autistic individual was completely different in this book, but it was also told from a different perspective and from actual events. Gorilla Nation, being a memoir, went off on tangents a few too many times for my liking and at times seemed too dramatic, although those have had more to do with my personal preferences than the book’s subject. The Speed of Dark was a confusing mixture of reality and futuristic fiction: a world that seems completely contemporary except for the cure for autism, which is never explicitly presented as unreal.
I think it is impossible to write a book just about autism (or a book just about anything, for that matter). Curious Incident never claims to be about autism at all. Gorilla Nation is a memoir of Prince-Hughes’s entire life, which involved so much more than just her struggles with autism. Reasonable People has strong additional focuses on foster care and the psychological effects of abuse. The Speed of Dark is possibly the most focused on autism, but it is a fictional account set in a futuristic society where the cure to autism has been discovered. For a person who had no familiarity with autism, none of these books would be enough to fully understand all of the complexities associated with the disability and surrounding culture. They all portray a very different image of what an autistic person is like. And, in some ways, that is a good thing: the diversity of autistic characters reflects the diversity of actual autists. However, in order to get this message, readers need to be willing to read a number of novels from different genres.