Book Review: Stim: An Autistic Anthology ed. by Lizzie Huxley-Jones

September 04, 2020

 

Stim: An Autistic Anthology, ed. by Lizzie Huxley-Jones

Unbound, 2020

Disability & Illness | Short stories | Essay collection

I needed to read this book. As a neuro-typical person who has clearly not done enough to make space for people who process in different ways to me, this collection of stories, personal essays, and art from autistic contributors has been really valuable. Stim offered an opportunity to really tune in and listen to the experience, perspectives and feelings of neurodivergent people. This collection successfully raises awareness of the range of autistic experience and offers a space of recognition for readers on the autistic spectrum and has a wonderful, hopeful dedication at the beginning: “for us”.

I’m sure many of us have been guilty of being frustrated and impatient when somebody doesn’t process something in the same way we have, wondering why they can’t see what’s so obvious to us. Regardless of whether we, and the people we interact with, are neurotypical or neurodivergent, it’s naturally difficult to see the world through someone else’s perspective, but this collection gives us that opportunity, putting us in the shoes of 18 autistic contributors. The anthology shines a light on small, quotidian aspects of life and how they might affect autistic people, and also gives space to autistic imagination and inquisition.

The anthology nudges us to think about how we can behave differently to be more accommodating of others and more compassionate. There were many learnings for me in this book that I am determined to take with me going forwards and to be more mindful to other people’s experience and ways of processing, emoting and communicating.

The collection is diverse, with a range of themes and writing styles included. There are experimental and poetic prose pieces, personal essays and fictional stories. I expected to respond to the writing more than the art, because I prefer literature to visual art, but the art pieces were brilliant and meaningful too and suited the collection well. The anthology is considerate, with content warnings for all kinds of potential triggers, not just the “standard” ones that often seem to be included out of obligation rather than genuine care. Voice is given to diverse authors with different backgrounds, sexualities and genders, but Huxley-Jones acknowledges the lack of contributions from people of colour, noting that there are representation and diagnosis issues for autistic people of colour more broadly that likely affected the proportion of submissions from people of colour. Further resources and advice are offered at the end of the collection making this a really great start for your autistic reading list.

Side note: the book description references the UK autism rates but the anthology is not UK-centric; it has a broader reach and is relatable for non-British readers.

I’m so glad this anthology exists; it was truly eye-opening to me as a neuro-typical person and it’s so valuable to hear from neurodivergent people in their own voices and their own modes of expression, be it fiction, essay, art or something in between; this collection makes space for it all as part of its mission to expand the limited representations of what autism is. Highly recommended.

 

4/5


This anthology was published through Unbound, which is an innovative crowdfunded publisher. Funders pledge to book proposals and projects they want to see come alive and by bypassing traditional publishing gatekeepers in this way, marginalised authors have a chance to be heard. Discover exciting projects to support through Unbound. (not sponsored or affiliated with Unbound in any way)

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