Sparrow Rose Jones wrote an e-book No You Don’t: Essays From an Unstrange Mind that is now available on Amazon. The title comes from a powerful essay she wrote on her blog – Unstrange Mind – in response to the many parents who have told her how they would like nothing more than to have their autistic child grow up to be like her. Sparrow writes:
“I used to say, “I hope she’s much better off than I am,” or simply, “no, you don’t,” but over time I learned that parents refuse to accept that answer. Maybe they think I’m doing that social thing where someone compliments you and you are expected to refuse the compliment a time or two, finally accepting it but maintaining your veneer of humility. Or maybe they’re just baffled. But sometimes they even got angry so I finally learned that I should answer, “thank you. That’s very kind of you to say.” Reinforced behavior — reinforced by social censure if I dare give the wrong response.”
“… what I wish to come from this book: a recognition of the shared humanity we all enjoy and a sense of connection among people coming together across a wide gap of experiential realities.”
And again from the essay – No, You Don’t:
“… they think, “my child is non-verbal. My child goes to school and crawls around on the floor, meowing like a cat. My child still wears diapers while all her same age peers have been toilet trained. My child bites and hits people. My child bites and hits herself.” And so on.
“Then they hear that I was many of those things, myself. I was kicked out of the classroom for crawling on the floor and hiding under the tables. My first grade teacher said I was “mentally retarded” and petitioned (successfully) to have me removed from her classroom.”
Further along she writes:
“I was raped. I was abused — domestically and otherwise. I was molested. I was taken sexual advantage of. I want you to teach your children to say no and I want them to know how to mean it and back it up when they say it. I want you to teach your children to value themselves and I want you to teach them to own their bodies.”
Sparrow writes about how she lives in “crushing poverty”, how she has spent a great deal of time homeless, couldn’t keep a job,and was “unable to consistently keep a roof over my head or food to eat.”
In her follow-up to her No, You Don’t essay she writes about the response she received because of it. “There was a small group of people, though, who read my essay and became angry.” She describes how she was attacked by parents of autistic children, “I felt like I was being punished for writing and all that compliance training kicked in as a result. I closed down my blog. I became physically ill from the stress and shame and ended up in the emergency room more than once as a result.”
The next essay is called “Bullies, Bullying, and the Struggle to Speak My Heart”. The first sentence of that essay is:
“Bullies have been one of the most constant things in my life.”
“An Autistic kid who is behaving in a violent manner is an Autistic kid who is seriously suffering on a daily basis and needs a lot of help. And being able to speak doesn’t always mean that a kid will be able to tell you what is wrong.”
There are too many wonderful essays in this e-book to quote in one short post. Sparrow writes honestly with tremendous compassion for all of us. She ends her beautiful collection of essays with this:
“May my journey of self-discovery inspire you to journeys of your own. Where there is life, there is hope. Autistic lives do not always look the way you might expect or hope they would look, but you must keep a sharp eye out for the tender flowers as you travel and you must understand that Autistics often bloom in surprising and exquisite ways. Don’t try to shape us to your garden or we may wilt. Enjoy and foster our own, unique beauty in all its fierce wildness and you will find your heart and your truest reward there.”
i have read that post in the past, must read it again or get the book.
the dialogue between parents of autistic kids and the autistic self-advocates seems incredibly painful for the autistics at times… i am full of admiration that they continue to fight for those kids whose parents keep saying “you are not like my child” or else.. “tell me about your toilet training” ..
Right. The questions about extremely personal issues is something a number of friends have spoken about.
Sparrow’s book is short and easy to read. And she writes so well, it was a pleasure to read, though I have to admit, if she makes it available in paperback, I would certainly buy it in that form as well!
Reblogged this on Unstrange Mind and commented:
Ariane Zurcher of Emma’s Hope Book has written a review of my book. I am touched and grateful and honored by her words. Thank you, Ariane!
It was an utter pleasure, Sparrow!
“No You Don’t” is still on my shortlist of most powerful pieces of writing that I’ve ever read.
Yup, me too.
I still remember the first time I read the title essay from this collection. I literally couldn’t breathe by the time I was done. Sparrow is such an incredibly gifted and courageous writer. ❤
I agree. And there is also tremendous kindness and love that comes across throughout this entire collection of essays…
No You Don’t was one of the first links I added to my blog, it was so powerful. Our kids have to learn NO – actually any kid has to learn when NO is OK – even required (speaking from experience). Finding that balance between following the rules and unhealthy compliance is tough…
Yes. And there’s a lot of nuance that needs to be covered as well…
I know she had it available for free a while back, but I didn’t get it then (or Michael Scott Monje’s new book, for the same reason) because I feel it would be wrong of me to not pay for work of this quality. And so I will save until I can afford to get a Kindle and buy it at list price. Because if I’m going to read their work, I want to have paid for the pleasure.
There are authors who hit the NYT bestseller list every time they release a book, about whom I don’t feel even one percent as much respect for as writers.
Oh, I am so in agreement! Yup, Michael’s book is on my list… I promised him his would be next up after Sparrow’s.
We have something in common then as my first grade teacher also told my parents I was mentally retarded and tried to get me sent to a special needs school. I wonder what would have happened to me if that had of been the case..special needs school in the early 70s probably best not to think about it.