Invisible difference: autistic life writing’s potential to highlight the value of being different

Invisible difference: autistic life writing’s potential to highlight the value of being different

Ms Kerri BettsZoom

Autism Spectrum Conditions are not adequately accounted for within discussions of mental illness, disability, or difference. This is more than just a linguistic complexity as evidenced by media and literary representations that often misrepresent or polarise autism. This tendency risks rendering the nuanced, dynamic, and diverse nature of autism and the autistic community invisible.

From the first instances of autistic autobiographies, there has been a recent trajectory towards autistic people using their individual outlook on life to inform and enrich other topics rather than satisfying a public curiosity about what it is like to live as an autistic person. Whist this has been seen in previous years with people such as Temple Grandin, the mainstream success of these works demonstrates the literary possibility to correct misconceptions and give a widespread voice to those that might have otherwise been overlooked outside of their domain.

This paper will examine Dara McAnulty’s (2020) Diary of a Young Naturalist and Camilla Pang’s (2020) Explaining Humans. These texts won the Wainwright Prize for nature writing and the Royal Society book prize respectively, indicative of each author’s success in their field which is enriched for their different perspective on the world. I will explore how they use these texts to construct a multifaceted identity and what this could mean for autistic life writing’s future impact.

University of Leeds, UK
Fri 09:30 - 11:00
Mental Health, Narrative
Standard paper