Neurodivergent Book Reviews: Autism in Heels
The next book in the Neurospicy Nonsense Neurodivergent Book Reviews series is Autism in Heels by Jennifer Cook O’Toole. A friend of mine who has been recently diagnosed recommended this book to me and now I am the one feverishly recommending it to others. With this book, Jennifer saw into my soul and understood my experiences in a way I have never experienced before.
Admittedly, I initially felt a bit of the ick when I heard the title and saw the bright red pumps on the cover. I’m struggling to put into words what my exact concerns were but I think I was worried it came off as objectifying. Autistic people are already objectified all the time. Many people speak about us rather than to us and heaven forbid they actually listen to us. So I guess I was just cautiously curious about the angle she would take it in.
Autism in Heels
As is common for someone with anxiety, I had needlessly worried. The concept of Autism in Heels is that we know autistic girls are underdiagnosed. Underdiagnosed due to misunderstandings about autism, gender bias, and a variety of other factors. As a result, much of what people believe about autism is about autistic males. When the author found herself in the middle of a developing autism family tree, she asked, what would autism look like in heels? Instead of trains and time tables, how would that interest present in autistic females? So much of what was said were experiences I’ve had or habits I do that I’ve never known how to put words to. Having those words is truly so insightful and such a liberating feeling.
I also enjoyed her writing style but I’m pretty sure it’s because it felt relatable to my own tendency of flourished long-windedness.
A Roller Coaster of Emotions
Truly, I loved this book. It made me laugh and feel more understood. Full disclosure, there was a fair amount of crying. I questioned parts of my childhood. I processed some things I hadn’t known how to process or even that I needed to. Which is why I had to take breaks and split up my reading of it. I laughed out loud many times throughout the book but especially when the author makes a Newsies reference. A longtime special interest of mine, I’ve started wondering if a love of Newsies is yet another Neurodivergent beacon. A musical with cute boys singing and dancing about labor laws? It literally sings to our autistic sense of justice (and love of musicals.)
A mere three pages later, I was crying. Fat, hot tears streamed down my face and blurred my vision, forcing me to sit and process the things that had just been unlocked. How can this stranger write stories straight from my own experiences? Some of which were moments of unmet needs and rejection that I had boxed away and glossed over? When I read them coming from someone else, those boxes were ripped open and demanded to be reexamined beyond the glossy haze. Jennifer masterfully captures the beautiful and humorous aspects as well as the shame, loneliness, and confusion that defines so much of the autistic experience.
Who Should Read Autism in Heels?
In my opinion? Everyone. Everyone should read this fucking book. There are so many people who can benefit from reading it. If people understood autism better, I think we’d have a more inconclusive and productive society, but I won’t get on that soap box right now.
I’ve already recommended this book to pretty much all my autistic friends, of all genders. I also think it is a really helpful read for family members or partners of women with autism. Many of us can be quite locked in our head, thinking we express or communicate more than we do. Our brains are full of rich words and visuals and we struggle to confine those into words that make sense. Autism in Heels can provide some valuable insight into our invisible words and visible realities.
I found this book empowering. It gave me more words and tools to use within my own framework. I went into it thinking I’d learn more about another autistic woman’s experience and more about autism. I was a bit blind sided by the processing-childhood-traumas part but it helped me break through some barriers I had object-permanenced into ignoring.
Autism in Heels is a great read that I enthusiastically recommend, despite the unexpected therapy sessions it threw at me.