cover image The Autists: Women on the Spectrum

The Autists: Women on the Spectrum

Clara Törnvall, trans. from the Swedish by Alice E. Olsson. Scribe, $18 trade paper (224p) ISBN 978-1-957363-53-0

Journalist Törnvall seeks comfort in the stories of other autistic women throughout history in her illuminating debut. Moved to find answers about her lifelong anxiety and sense of social separateness, Törnvall was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder at 42 and became determined to correct misconceptions about women with autism, many of which, she argues, stem from a cultural emphasis on men’s symptoms. She starts at the beginning, covering Russian doctor Grunya Sukhareva’s first recognition of autism’s congenital development in 1925 and tracing early depictions of autism back to the 13th century. Then she transitions into sections on noteworthy autistic (and likely autistic) women, including social theorist Simone Weil, poet Emily Dickinson, and climate activist Greta Thunberg, each of whom “found her place in the world, where she [could] turn her diagnosis into something positive and play to her strengths.” An insightful and involving narrator, Törnvall movingly explores how women with so-called “high-functioning autism” persisted in harnessing their abilities whether or not they lived in a time that recognized their neurotype. This winning combination of memoir and cultural history stimulates and entertains in equal measure. (Nov.)