Book: Odd Girl Out, an Autistic woman in a neurotypical world.
Author: Laura James
Format Reviewed: Audio book, borrowed from my Library’s app, read by Louiza Patikas.
Book Description: (copied from Amazon)
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. This book 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.
About The Author: (taken from Amazon)
Laura James is an author and journalist and the owner of a communications agency. Her writing has appeared in many national and international newspapers and magazines. When not frantically fighting deadlines, she can generally be found hiding under a duvet with a stack of good books and lots of chocolate. She is the mother of four adult children and lives with her husband their dogs and cat in North Norfolk. Since her autism diagnosis she has campaigned for autism awareness and acceptance and written Odd Girl Out, a powerful memoir about dealing with a diagnosis of autism in womanhood.
Without a doubt I knew I’d relate to this book, but I wasn’t expecting just how much I’d relate to it. Autism in women is massively undiagnosed, as most of the traits used in being diagnosed relate to males. Laura James talking about her own experiences and me being able to relate to them myself has been a big confidence boost for me. I’ve come away from this book not feeling socially outcast, just the knowing that so many others can relate is a huge relief.
I refuse to get myself involved in the current situation and online discussions surrounding J.K Rowling. I have my own opinions, of course, I do. – I am human after all. As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, I include and support everyone that is also part of the community. If this blog post isn’t for you, you don’t need to read it, you can simply click off and read something else. If you do choose to stay, I refuse to discuss or allow any comments that mention the current situation.No matter who you are, or who you identify as you are seen and welcome at Bewitching Reads. Hate and discrimination against either party are not welcome here.
I was very much a child who loved books. I have a photo of me at seven years old, laying on my bed, and next to the bed is an open copy of The Railway Children. I remember it so well because it was part of a collection of hardback classics that I was given as a gift from my dad one Easter. A seven-year-old, reading classics? That to me never seemed out of the ordinary, I was a child that liked books. I’m neurodivergent, so I suppose it is fair to say that books very quickly became my “special interest.”
At school, I was a bit of a strange child. – and that is putting it very politely, and is a story for another time! I devoured Enid Blyton books, my favourites being The Naughtiest Girl, The Enchanted wood series, and The Magic Wishing Chair. I was also very fond of The Hollow Tree House, which hasn’t been in print since the nineties so I’m glad I still have my original copy of the book.
Growing up we didn’t have a lot of money, despite this, however, books were never something that I had restricted access to. I am aware that this isn’t the case for a lot of children from poorer backgrounds, I was very fortunate in this sense.
My love of books kept growing, so did my love of writing. I started off writing about dogs that went shopping to the corner shop, before long I was writing Enid Blyton school adventure type stories and filling notebooks with them.
In 1998, when I was nine years old, my mum bought me a book, Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone, from there, it all began. A few weeks later my teacher started reading us the story at the end of the day too, I remember vividly, it would get to 3:15 pm and none of us wanted to go home until he had finished the chapter. The tables in our classes were renamed after the Hogwarts houses. – funnily enough, I was on the Hufflepuff table then, and I’m a Hufflepuff! Back then I didn’t know that though. Then The Chamber of Secrets was released. My interest in Harry Potter continued. Secondary school was really where my love of Harry Potter became noticeable.
Harry Potter wasn’t “cool” when I was at school. This was before the movies, my first year of secondary school was awful, to say the least. I was horrifically bullied for my interest in Harry Potter, and the fact that I was neurodiverse and undiagnosed only added to the bullying. Hogwarts was my escape. The Prisoner of Azkaban was already out by the time I’d secondary school, and lots of Harry Potter merchandise was starting to appear in shops. I had the backpack, the pencil case, the bedding, including curtains, and even the audio cassettes. Yes, you read that correctly. I’m old enough to have listened to the audiobooks on a Sony Walkman! – and I did, daily, on the way to school. I even fell asleep each night listening to them! – I’m 32 now, and I still listen to Harry Potter before I go to sleep. Harry Potter was becoming my escape from the bullies and my struggles in school. My mental health was declining rapidly because of school, and without it, I don’t think I’d have managed at all.
***The next paragraph discusses self-harm, please skip that paragraph if you are sensitive to that topic.***
I started self-harming when I was 12 years old. I was at school when it happened, too. I spent a lot of my lunchtimes hiding in empty classrooms, because it was just me on my own, and I rarely got caught. It had been a really bad morning. The classroom that I used to like to hide in was in the English block, and what had been the tipping point, were the taunts I received on my way there. Bullies will find the weirdest things to bully someone about. Anyway, I went into the classroom, stamped on a plastic pencil sharpener to get the blade out, and I won’t go into the detail of the rest.
Teachers didn’t believe me when it came to the bullying I received, I struggled with lessons, I struggled with the mainstream school environment. It was loud, and the older kids were tall and hairy, it scared me, but Harry Potter was there for me. Hogwarts kept me safe, and the fictional characters within the books I’m ashamed to admit were my only friends until I was sixteen.
“Harry Potter was there for children who felt like they didn’t belong.” Is a quote from the recent reunion special, and what sparked the idea for this post. As soon as I heard that I burst into tears, and didn’t stop crying for most of the day. I felt that I really did.
Even as an adult, struggle with a lot of anxiety. Most of my anxiety is social anxiety. I’m not going to sit here and say “It’s the childhood trauma.” That would be quite silly. Year’s have passed and although a few things have followed me, I’ve dealt with all that. The truth is however, adults can be mean too.
The real kicks came after my ADHD diagnosis. This was the mid-2000’s, and my school SENDCO said to my mum “girls don’t get ADHD.” There were only two teachers in my secondary school that treated me like I was a person. My PE teacher, I hated PE, more so the changing rooms, than the actual activity itself. She was a lovely teacher, I didn’t know at the time, but she’s gay. Our paths crossed a few years ago, as I work in education, and she is still a teacher. Back then LGBT wasn’t allowed to be discussed in schools. Since I’ve come out, I’ve wondered if she saw the signs about me. The second teacher that treated me like an actual person, was one of my English teachers. Instead of raising eyebrows at my Harry Potter obsession spoke to me about it. She asked me questions about books, she was interested, she didn’t just want to tell me off like the others. She was new to the school that school year, I was in year 9 now, and during a lesson, I was finding it hard to focus. This was before fidget toys, I was swinging on my chair and clicking a pen repeatedly. Instead of telling me off she walked over to me, knelt down by my table and said “Go outside, walk around the building 10 times and then come back in.”
I was gobsmacked. So gobsmacked I said,“What if don’t come back?” I had a reputation for leaving school and going home. The school called it truancy, I called it protecting my mental health. No one should be spat on, followed into the toilets and cornered by six girls, or chased home once off the school bus, while being pelted with stones. Her answer to me was “You will come back, but you best take your things in case you decide not to.” I did go back. Unfortunately, she wasn’t my teacher for very long. I then went to a referral unit and got an EHCP. I was only supposed to be at the unit for three months. I ended up staying just over 2 years. It was decided that I was finally settled, calm and making good progress, that it would do more damage than good to reintegrate me into school.
With every up and down I’ve had in my life, Harry Potter has always been there. Happy? Harry Potter, Sad? Harry Potter. In need of a confidence boost? Harry Potter.
I know there are going to people that read this and think, What the fuck is she on? But I also know there are going to be many that feel the same.
Hogwarts made me feel like I belonged somewhere. Even as an adult J.K. Rowling’s words stick me, always.
“Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home.”
Disclaimer: The book format in which I am reviewing this, was purchased by myself, with my own money. I was NOT given a copy of The book for this review, and this review is not sponsored. I receive no benefits from the links provided in this review, they are used to cite any sourced information, and to where I purchased it. As with all of my reviews my thoughts and opinions are all my own.
The beautiful true story of one girl’s journey growing up autistic – and the challenges she faced in the ‘normal’ world. I’m not like the other children in my class… and that’s an actual scientific FACT. Hi! My name is Abigail, and I’m autistic. But I didn’t know I was autistic until I was an adult-sort-of-person*. This is my true story of growing up in the confusing ‘normal’ world, all the while missing some Very Important Information about myself. There’ll be scary moments involving toilets and crowded trains, heart-warming tales of cats and pianos, and funny memories including my dad and a mysterious tub of ice cream. Along the way you’ll also find some Very Crucial Information about autism. If you’ve ever felt different, out of place, like you don’t fit in… this book is for you. * I’ve never really felt like an actual-adult-person, as you’ll soon discover in this book… Told through the author’s remarkable words, and just as remarkable illustrations, this is the book for those who’ve never felt quite right in the ‘normal’ world. Very important, very funny and very informative – this is the book the world needs right now.
Biography was taken from Penguin books, image from Abigail’s Twitter. Link hereLink her
Abigail Balfe (Author, Illustrator) Abigail is a Brighton-based writer, illustrator and creative producer. Original storytelling has always been at the heart of Abigail’s career and she has spent a decade leading social media campaigns for some of the biggest TV & entertainment clients in the world. Abigail also used to perform stand-up comedy and won several tiny trophies for her onstage humour; which involved life-size illustrations, ridiculous songs and rambling stories about her family.
A different sort of normal was a fantastic read for me to start 2022 with. I’m neurodivergent, although I don’t have Autism, I do have ADHD. If you are familiar with ADHD, you may or may not know that a lot of ADHD symptoms overlap with autism. – and there aren’t very many books out there with ADHD characters. I’m writing one, maybe one day the world will get to read it if I’m lucky enough. So naturally, books surrounding Autism are the closest I can get, and so far I have to say, this is the best one I’ve read. I Instantly felt a connection with Abigail, her brain ticks like mine, and it’s fantastic! I’m not within the age demographic of which this book was written (I’m 32.) But I’d recommend it for ND adults too. Lots of the experiences that Abigail discusses with growing up I can strongly relate to, and I wish little me who struggled growing up, had this book to read. I instantly felt like someone else understands me without having to say anything. – even with my phobia of public toilets, and having to use them at school! Abigail is a fresh voice for ND children and adults, as she says, there are thousands of others like us, so we can’t be that strange. Thank you for helping me and lots of others to feel proud of our neurodiverse brains, and helping us being able to see that the positives outweigh the negatives.
My Christmas holiday project landed on my doorstep this morning. The Broke Girl’s Reading Journal is out in the wild, finally. It was just something I made for myself, I’d been browsing online for one for ages, unfortunately, they can be on the expensive side. – which is justified, as a lot of time and work goes into them, and there are some truly stunning ones on the market. Alas, they were a bit out of my penny-pinching budget at the moment.
I decided to create my own. It’s not fancy, but I like it for myself, and it’s practical. Because it is a project that I created with just me in mind, I am charging the absolute minimum that Amazon allows me to charge for it. I would make it cheaper if I could but at the same time I don’t want to comprise the quality of the paper especially as it’s going to be written on.
The journal is accessible not just on Amazon UK, but in most other countries and can be found here 🙂 or by searching Broke Girl’s Reading Journal on Amazon.
If you would like a PDF copy for digital journaling please email: email@example.com and I will send you a copy free of charge. You still may need to format it for your chosen device, however. (I’m not sure how digital journalling works) In exchange for a PDF copy, if you could leave me a review for it I’d be very grateful.
Hope you all had a lovely Christmas, and are keeping safe during the current issue we are all facing.
The strange thing about writing is how real the characters you right about become to you. My brain is convinced pretty much 90% of the time that the characters I write about are real people. Part of the reason why I can’t let let go of A Pair of Pears is because of how real the story and the people are to me. To me that entire world exists. Getting very Harry Potter here, but each character I write about is a Horcrux. I will translate this for the muggles, a Horcrux is an object or thing that contains a piece of a wizards soul. Each character, each world, I write about and create contains a piece of my soul.
I mentioned to a friend today, that entering a relationship is something that really doesn’t interest me at all. People get curious as to why I’ve been single since 2018. – I have dated people, but I’m so happy with my own company, and the company of the places I create in my head, that I don’t get lonely as such. I’m not saying never, one day I might meet a human to who I am particularly fond of in more than a platonic sense. I also may not. I know my worth, I won’t settle.
Feel free to joke here, about the friends in my head. I guess in some way you are right.
For several years now I’ve been writing a follow up for A Pair of Pears. Not for me, I already know what happens and will happen, but more for the people who have asked, and who continue to ask. Although I have written things here and there in the last few years. That ship has sailed, I have too many other things that I want to wrote about.
For those interested this is what happens.
Charlie: Charlie attends art school, her focus of gothic horror sells well and she eventually is able to make a living from it, alongside being a part-time art teacher. She moves to New York. After the book ends, she stays with Willow and Lily, she calls things off with Jackson in their last year of school as they both want different things. – they were however together for a year.
Lily & Willow: Lily moves to London and studies writing. Willow has a freak accident involving a goat and a Ford transit van. Willow is alive, the goat isn’t. She becomes a wheelchair user but is still able to live life happily. Because of this, Lily moves back home, ends up getting signed to a publisher, buys a house on right in front of the sea. She’s lucky enough to make enough money to write full-time. She marries a woman that she met while in London. They have both a dog and a cat.
Jackson: Jackson gets married and has 5 children before he’s 25. He works as a self employed musician. He builds his own house, with the help of his dad.
Dylan: Dylan leaves pretty much after the book ends. He’s taken to live in Spain and attends private school. Nobody hears from him again.
Charlie’s grandad: unfortunately passes away 4 weeks after the book ends.
Except for Dylan. All characters remain in contact with each other, and stay friends.
For those interested, in reading A Pair of Pears, my manuscript is currently going through a new edit, with a polish up on some of the writing and formatting. The current version is available below in paperback and on Kindle.
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