Fall Down 7 Times Get Up 8: A Young Man’s Voice from the Silence of Autism

Naoki Higashida, trans. from the Japanese by K.A. Yoshida and David Mitchell. Random House, $27 (240p) ISBN 978-0-812-99739-2
An outwardly wordless consciousness blossoms into expressive prose in this vibrant, if uneven, self-portrait. Higashida is a nonverbal, severely autistic 24-year-old Japanese man who cannot hold a conversation but has learned to write by pointing at and voicing letters on an alphabetic grid and by using a computer. (The author’s 2007 memoir, The Reason I Jump, was an international bestseller.) This latest collection of his writings features short essays, interviews, poems, and a lyrical, dreamlike short story. He includes somewhat generic thoughts on topics ranging from war to God, but he focuses largely on his life as an autistic person. It’s a life of obsessive routines, rituals, and literalism: the slightest change in plans throws him into a state of extreme agitation, activities must start and stop at prescheduled times, searching out Hello Kitty souvenirs calms his anxiety in unfamiliar train stations, having his photo taken causes him to fixate on the trivial differences between individual cameras. In Mitchell and Yoshida’s deft translation, Higashida conveys this isolating mind-set and his yearnings for connection and self-expression, in direct, evocative prose—his compulsive, restless motion, he writes, is “instinctual, like a wild animal running over a wide plain”—that provides readers with a window into a previously unknowable world. Photos. Agent: Douglas Stewart, Sterling Lord. (July)
Reviewed on: 05/22/2017
Release date: 07/11/2017
Genre: Nonfiction
Compact Disc - 978-1-101-92316-0
Hardcover - 240 pages - 978-0-345-80975-9
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Audio book sample courtesy of Penguin Random House Audio
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