Monday, 18 December 2017

Odd Girl Out by Laura James

Odd Girl Out
By Laura James
Published by Bluebird (6 April 2017)
I received an Advance Reader Copy from the publisher

Publisher's description
What do you do when you wake up in your mid-forties and realize you've been living a lie your whole life? Do you tell? Or do you keep it to yourself?
Laura James found out that she was autistic as an adult, after she had forged a career for herself, married twice and raised four children. Odd Girl Out tracks the year of Laura's life after she receives a definitive diagnosis from her doctor, as she learns that 'different' doesn't need to mean 'less' and how there is a place for all of us, and it's never too late to find it.
Laura draws on her professional and personal experiences and reflects on her life in the light of her diagnosis, which for her explains some of her differences; why, as a child, she felt happier spinning in circles than standing still and why she has always found it difficult to work in places with a lot of ambient noise. 
Although this is a personal story, the book has a wider focus too, exploring reasons for the lower rate of diagnosed autism in women and a wide range of topics including eating disorders and autism, marriage and motherhood.
This memoir gives a timely account from a woman negotiating the autistic spectrum, from a poignant and personal perspective.

My verdict
Laura James, an experienced journalist, and a wife and mother, has written an informative memoir, as she comes to terms with her recent diagnosis of autism.

As she reflects on her past, she explores what has led her to feel 'different' from others over the years - as a child, teenager and now adult. Things slot into place, yet bring up more questions and a need to discover how to cope in an ever-changing world. She also contemplates other aspects of her life too, such as adoption, marriage, motherhood and living with a chronic pain condition (Ehler-Danlos syndrome - EDS).

I found Odd Girl Out fascinating - a chance to see autism from the 'inside', rather than the outside looking in. An insight into the thought processes, identity crises and the need to feel stable and safe. This isn't a fast-paced or exciting read. But it tells the reader how it is - following a year in Laura James' life - based on one woman's experiences.

Odd Girl Out provides reassurance that being 'different' doesn't mean someone can't live a full life, both professionally and personally. Although this is memoir, it may also be a useful resource for adults going through similar diagnoses, parents of children on the autistic spectrum and anyone who just feels a need to learn more.

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