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Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger's [Hardcover]

John Elder Robison
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Sept. 25 2007
Ever since he was small, John Robison had longed to connect with other people, but by the time he was a teenager, his odd habits—an inclination to blurt out non sequiturs, avoid eye contact, dismantle radios, and dig five-foot holes (and stick his younger brother in them)—had earned him the label “social deviant.” No guidance came from his mother, who conversed with light fixtures, or his father, who spent evenings pickling himself in sherry. It was no wonder he gravitated to machines, which could, at least, be counted on.

After fleeing his parents and dropping out of high school, his savant-like ability to visualize electronic circuits landed him a gig with KISS, for whom he created their legendary fire-breathing guitars. Later, he drifted into a “real” job, as an engineer for a major toy company. But the higher Robison rose in the company, the more he had to pretend to be “normal” and do what he simply couldn’t: communicate. It wasn’t worth the paycheck.
It was not until he was forty that an insightful therapist told him he had the form of autism called Asperger’s syndrome. That understanding transformed the way Robison saw himself—and the world.

Look Me in the Eye is the moving, darkly funny story of growing up with Asperger’s at a time when the diagnosis simply didn’t exist. A born storyteller, Robison takes you inside the head of a boy whom teachers and other adults regarded as “defective,” who could not avail himself of KISS’s endless supply of groupies, and who still has a peculiar aversion to using people’s given names (he calls his wife “Unit Two”). He also provides a fascinating reverse angle on the younger brother he left at the mercy of their nutty parents—the boy who would later change his name to Augusten Burroughs and write the bestselling memoir Running with Scissors.

Ultimately, this is the story of Robison’s journey from his world into ours, and his new life as a husband, father, and successful small business owner—repairing his beloved high-end automobiles. It’s a strange, sly, indelible account—sometimes alien, yet always deeply human.

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From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Robison's thoughtful and thoroughly memorable account of living with Asperger's syndrome is assured of media attention (and sales) due in part to his brother Augusten Burroughs's brief but fascinating description of Robison in Running with Scissors. But Robison's story is much more fully detailed in this moving memoir, beginning with his painful childhood, his abusive alcoholic father and his mentally disturbed mother. Robison describes how from nursery school on he could not communicate effectively with others, something his brain is not wired to do, since kids with Asperger's don't recognize common social cues and body language or facial expressions. Failing in junior high, Robison was encouraged by some audiovisual teachers to fix their broken equipment, and he discovered a more comfortable world of machines and circuits, of muted colors, soft light, and mechanical perfection. This led to jobs (and many hilarious events) in worlds where strange behavior is seen as normal: developing intricate rocket-shooting guitars for the rock band Kiss and computerized toys for the Milton Bradley company. Finally, at age 40, while Robison was running a successful business repairing high-end cars, a therapist correctly diagnosed him as having Asperger's. In the end, Robison succeeds in his goal of helping those who are struggling to grow up or live with Asperger's to see how it is not a disease but a way of being that needs no cure except understanding and encouragement from others. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* If one looked at only Robison's impish sense of humor (he once ordered a blow-up sex doll to be delivered to his junior-high-school teacher—at school), or his success as a classic-car restorer, it might be impossible to believe he has the high-functioning form of autism spectrum disorder called Asperger's syndrome. Clues abound, however, in his account of a youth encompassing serious inability to make and keep friends; early genius at pyrotechnics, electronics, and math; and pet names such as Poodle for his dog and Snort and Varmint for his baby brother. Much later, he calls his wife Unit Two. It is easy to recognize these telltale traits today, but Robison went undiagnosed until he was 40. In the 1960s, he was variously labeled lazy, weird, and, worse, sociopathic. Consequently, his childhood memories too often read like a kid's worst nightmares. Not only did his parents fail to understand the root of his socialization problems but they were also virtually as dysfunctional as the pair Augusten Burroughs portrays in Running with Scissors (2002). 'Nough said? Not nearly. Robison's memoir is must reading for its unblinking (as only an Aspergian can) glimpse into the life of a person who had to wait decades for the medical community to catch up with him. Chavez, Donna

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Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
4.8 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Truly Inspiring.....An Eye Opener Nov. 28 2007
My son is 35 years old and it wasn't until 11/14/07 that an acquaintance mentioned to me that my son may have Asperger's. I delved into everything I could find online only to come to the conclusion that without a doubt this is what he has. I purchased this book and could not put it down. The similarities are uncanny. This book opened my eyes into understanding the thought process in a different light. John's story is truly inspiring by having overcome so many hurdles and has been a Godsend to me after all of these years. Thank you so much John Elder!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Perspective Nov. 26 2007
As a mom to a child on the autism spectrum, I have read a lot of books about autism. In my quest to learn as much as I possibly can about how to help and understand my son, I read whatever I can get my hands on. Most of the books I have read are somewhat hopeless and depressing or are from a parents perspective. John Elder Robison is aspergian, and he is writing from his own experiences. He really explained the reasoning behind some of his behaviors as a child, and they totally made perfect sense to me. This book is funny in parts, sad in parts, but very real and very enjoyable. Plus the fact- you get to hear about John's adventures on the road with Kiss.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Something For Everyone Nov. 26 2007
John Robison didn't find out he had Asperger's Syndrome until he was 40. By that time he'd spent many years trying to fit into a world that often treated him unkindly, due to his many unexplained quirks and odd behaviors. This memoir takes you from John's childhood, as the older son of a mentally ill mother and a violent alcoholic father, through his adulthood, during which he had several interesting jobs, including as a developer of pyrotechnics for some of the great rock bands of the 1980's, including KISS. John writes without apology or self-pity, giving readers the opportunity to develop their own opinions about his life's travels. This book is surprisingly emotional, considering the spare and straight forward writing of the author. This moving portrayal of John Robison's ultimate redemption will resonate with anyone who has ever felt like an outsider. Although the book focuses on John's coming to term with his Asperger's, the book is ultimately about overcoming the kinds of personal struggles most of us face at some time during our lifetimes. Anyone who enjoys a good read will appreciate this entertaining and enlightening book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Look Me in the Eye: My Life With Asperger's Nov. 26 2007
Amazing. Educational. Inspiring. Laugh Out Loud Funny.

This book is not just for people affected by Asperger's. It is for
educators, therapists, medical doctors, etc. It is for any person
that felt left out, confused by social situations, or not picked for
the kickball team.

You will laugh, you may cry, you will be educated and you will
definitely be inspired. It is almost hard to believe that John is a
first time author, his writing is THAT GOOD.

Despite not being diagnosed well until adulthood, John Elder just
kept trudging along and was successful long before he wrote this
book. John brings home the message that anyone, anywhere,
can overcome any obstacle.

This book left me realizing that the world needs more people
like John Elder, additionally the world needed John Elder to
publish this book. For all those aspergians that may be in hiding,
it is safe for you to come out now.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must-have for your library! Nov. 27 2007
You don't expect a book about Asperger's to be funny, but it is. I loved this book. I have a nephew with Asperger's, and reading this book has helped me to understand him on a human level.

I would highly recommend this book to all schools as a reference, and to anyone who wants to feel what an Aspergian feels. It was a terrific read, cover to cover!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars From the mother of a freshly diagnosed ASD child Nov. 26 2007
I am incredibly grateful that John Elder Robison wrote this.
As a parent you hope that you can help shape your children to grow into successful (success measured by happiness) adults. This book has turned what was a dream into a realistic goal of my son being able to function and connect to the society/community he chooses to participate in when he reaches adulthood.
So many of the traits owned by him are owned by my son. For this reason to have the thought processes he went through clearly articulated is of immeasureable assistance to a parent such as myself.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Look Me In the Eye Nov. 28 2007
Look Me In the Eye is a must have for those with children on the autism spectrum. Throughout the book, Robison takes the reader through his "Aspergian," thought process, offering insight into why he did what he did or said what he said at certian ages. LMITE is a funny, poignant, tender story about a man who succeeded against the odds, in a world he did not fully understand. As a parent of a child on the spectrum, I am grateful for this peek inside and for the inspiration Robison provides.
Asperger's or not, this is a great story, a terrific read.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Help for the entire family Nov. 29 2007
My husband discovered this book first and passed it on to my daughter & me. We began the cd and could not stop. (Daughter is 16). It explains so much of our son (15)that nothing else has. We have since ordered the book and the CD for our son's psychologist. I can't possibly praise enough. Our son listened and was electrified. He recognized himself repeatedly and it made him feel so much better about himself. I would love to give John Robison a big hug and his brother, too, for requesting he write this. Morgan Gainor
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Most recent customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars starts off kind of slow, but overall a good book
It started off very slow, but I found his story to be very interesting. The last 1/2 of the book was amazing and I couldn't stop reading it, just the first 1/2 of the book is very... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Sarah
5.0 out of 5 stars A really good read
No issue with seller, I ordered, and it arrived in about 3 weeks. It looks to be a well thumbed store copy? Read more
Published 9 months ago by Boomerknows
5.0 out of 5 stars Thank you for the insight
Have been a fan of Burroughs for years so thought I would read about his brother. So glad I did! Robison's honesty and revelations of life with Asperger's was such good reading I... Read more
Published 11 months ago by JMW 0907
5.0 out of 5 stars Absorbing, insightful Aspergian biography
With Aspergers in my family, John Elder's biography has helped me to better understand our lives together and apart. Thank you.
Published 12 months ago by fiscar
5.0 out of 5 stars sad but inspiring
I get sad to think kids were raised that way, but, I do love the ending and how this individual made something of himself. it was a very heart felt book and I enjoyed reading it.
Published 13 months ago by manny
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent read
Excellent resource book for any fellow Aspy's out there or for anyone with one in their life. An excellent look into the world if someone with this exceptionality.
Published 15 months ago by Anon
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved It!
I loved this book. I had been trying to read as much as I could lately on this particular subject and came across this book by accident. I am so glad that I did. Read more
Published 18 months ago by catterwally
4.0 out of 5 stars An Insider's View of Asperger's Syndrome and a Unique Life
Parts of John Elder Robison's life were hard and are hard to read about. But like the main character in Shawshank Redemption, he climbs out of his particular hell and gets his... Read more
Published 20 months ago by John M. Ford
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read for everyone.
Since finding out our 15 year old has Aspergers,we have been trying to read all we can to find out about the syndrome and how to deal with aspies and, hardest of all, figure out... Read more
Published on March 20 2011 by Marguerite Alderton
4.0 out of 5 stars Teacher's opinion
I am an elementary teacher with a fair amount of experience with students on the autism spectrum. It was eyeopening to read an articulate first person account of life with... Read more
Published on Oct. 14 2009 by T. Walden
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