Book Review: Aspergirls by R. Simone
This book is very much about Aspergers Syndrome, and its presentation in Women and Girls. It is told from the perspectives of those who live it. It is on almost every reading list for the newly suspicious, or recently diagnosed, female.
Asperger Syndrome (AS) no longer officially ‘exists’ as a potential diagnosis. The more recent diagnostic manuals have merged the syndrome into the wider umbrella group of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). Do not get me started on the word “disorders”, although to be honest there will eventually be a rant post on it. Syndrome is a little less offensive, but only just a little. Condition is better but I’m still not loving it. Anyway,,,,, Back to the review. Labeling aside this book remains very much for women and girls who identify as Autistic.
I read this book for exactly one reason. I saw it recommended everywhere as the ultimate guide for women. I read this book a few years before I was officially diagnosed, but after the point where I had started to suspect I might be Autistic myself. As far as I can tell this book is one of the earliest guides written for women.
What is it about? This book is positioned as a handbook for autistic women. Each chapter centres around a different theme and how it effects females with AS. Strengths, life stages, puberty, employment, education, relationships, children, all feature. The book does not shy away from harder subjects like challenges, mental health, and risks. It is a good effort at a comprehensive manual based on real experiences. What comes through is a very much a practical perspective on the topics. Many of the chapters had plenty of detail but others felt to light to me.
The discussions are paced, and well signaled and signposted, so that there is nothing unexpected around the corner. I do not mean that as a bad thing, some of the topics are potentially triggering, so I appreciate the effort that went into making the book itself a safe space. That is not an easy thing to achieve.
How is it written? Rudy Simone writes accessibly and weaves the stories together well. There are reflections and anecdotes from 30+ women included throughout the book. It all flows very clearly. Its conversational but structured well.
Writing wise, my only criticism was that sometimes the line between fact, reasoning, and opinion needs to be clearer. I know this is not a textbook, but the book is presented as an ultimate guide to its’ subject, so I expect a little better. Have an example. There is a paragraph on page 24 that opens with the sentence “Information fills a void as we don’t seem to have much of an identity of our own when we’re young”. The section is on why information is so important to those with AS. Hmmmm. Largely unsupported huge sweeping generalisation anyone? This could even be true for most (though I don’t think its the case for me) but who knows? There’s nothing to support it.
Did I like it? I am going to be 100% honest here. I was expecting to love this book. It felt like it had me written all over it. I didn’t love it; I found it a little underwhelming. I am not sure why. It delivered on what it promised, female voices from the spectrum, shared experience and guidance, easily read. Part of me wonders if it is because I had built it up in my head too much? More probably though, I think I was just at the wrong part of my journey. It did not tell me much that was new to me, or offer many suggestions for navigating life that I had not already learned the hard way. The clue is probably in the title “Aspergirls” which sounds a bit awesome, portrays a sense of belonging and community, but also says ‘young’. Even though it is advertised as for women for all ages, I suspect I aged out of the category.
Who and When is it for? I would say it is for any female with an ASD, or anyone who who wants to better understand them. This could include friends, families, life partners, etc. When, it’s probably going to be most useful for the 14-30 age group. Still an interesting read for any age.
How useful is it? It is a useful book, although in my view more “Mildly Interesting” than “Empowering”. It covers a wide range of topics, most of which we all will face at different points. Definitely it will make you feel like you’re not just the #residentalien. That said, there are a lot of community resources online that offer similar, and the book is now over a decade old, so FOMO should not be a major concern if you decide to pass on this one.
Final Verdict: I recommend this book, but only because so many others found it useful. It is available through all major book sellers and many public libraries.
Sally Anne is an autistic academic, mentor, and mother. Her interests are her family, her books, the housing market, the environment and tech. She is recently diagnosed (though had suspected for a while). Through this blog she wants to connect with the autistic community and understand herself better. She believes in “knowledge for knowledge’s sake” and if she finds a button, she will need to press it!