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Nobody Nowhere: The Extraordinary Autobiography of an Autistic Girl

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"This is a story of two battles, a battle to keep out 'the world' and a battle to join it." She inhabits a place of chaos, cacophony, and dancing light--where physical contact is painful and sights and sounds have no meaning. Although labeled, at times, deaf, retarded, or disturbed, Donna Williams is autistic--afflicted by a baffling condition of heightened sensory perception that imprisons the sufferer in a private, almost hallucinatory universe of patterns and colors. Nobody Nowhere is Donna's story in her own words--a haunting, courageous memoir of the titanic struggles she has endured in her quest to merge "my world" with "the world."

219 pages, Paperback

First published April 23, 1992

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About the author

Donna Williams

124 books54 followers
Donna Williams is the author of Nobody Nowhere: The Extraordinary Autobiography of an Autistic, in which she tells of her lifelong battle with autism -- a developmental disorder originating in infancy and characterized by self-absorption, repetitive and rigidly structured behavior, language dysfunction, and an inability to interact socially. Williams depicts in her book a world of disembodied color, pattern, and sound. At times she would madly rub her eyes and withdraw into "bright spots of fluffy color," attempting to escape what she called the "intrusive gabble" of other people. Torn between a dread of physical contact and a desire for emotional connection, Williams would often beat herself then assume a fetal position. "Hurting herself," as New York Times Book Review contributor Daniel Goleman relates, "or doing shocking things ... were ways to reassure herself that she did indeed exist."

Goleman explains that books such as Williams's provide a valuable insight into an unfamiliar world, "revealing to outsiders that what may seem bizarre and unpredictable follows its own internal logic, however strange." Writing for the Los Angeles Times Book Review, Chris Goodrich found that Williams "proves herself to be rigorously analytical and remarkably free of self-pity, despite a life fraught with fear, pain, and misunderstanding." Nobody Nowhere was written by Williams in her efforts to better understand her world. Only upon the advice of two therapists familiar with autism did Williams decide to publish her writings. Goleman noted that the work provides "a fascinating testimony to an intelligence undimmed by mental turmoil," while Goodrich proclaimed that "Nobody Nowhere is as brave a book as you'll ever read."

Williams told CA: "Autism is not a 'mental disorder' anymore than it is a communication, social, perceptual, or neurological disorder. It is a pervasive development disorder (PDD) affecting many areas of development. It is not a mental illness, nor is it synonymous with mental retardation."

Source: Contemporary Authors Online, Gale, 2003.
Source Database: Contemporary Authors
PEN (Permanent Entry Number): 0000115308

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 191 reviews
Profile Image for Paul.
1,217 reviews1,964 followers
February 11, 2021
3.75 stars
This is the first of Donna Williams’s autobiographies and covers her childhood and early adulthood until she is about 25. She identified as autistic and this is her account of how she experienced the world and other people. Narratives of illness and disability can be difficult, especially if they stray into self-help or preaching. This mostly doesn’t. Williams also suffered significant abuse from her mother and a sibling. She related to the world through two other personalities, Carol and Willie, each of whom had different functions. Matters were complicated when she was diagnosed with schizophrenia (wrongly, as it happens). Williams had a significant fear of other people and communicated through objects. Like many who are not neurotypical she was met with fear, misunderstanding and abuse. Williams collected the usual words attached to those who appear different: “mad, stupid, retarded, insane, wild, disturbed and so on.” Williams explains the problems she had eloquently, with some humour (which can help as the subject matter is difficult) and can explain what she was experiencing:
"I knew the meanings of the words they used. I could even make meaning of many of their sentences. I could have tried to make a match with some information I had linked to key words they used. But I didn't understand the significance."
As Oliver Sacks has pointed out, whatever medicine can do, only those experiencing a condition or state of mind can tell us what it is really like. Williams describes her experience of what might be termed common emotions remarkably well:
"I used to think that nobody else really felt love because I didn't (or, if I did, then constant systems shut-downs made it a highly inconsistent and fragmented, almost unintelligible experience). I had learned how to pretend its existence, so I assumed that was what others did. To me, the illusion of love as a real thing was a sort of agreed-upon, mass social conspiracy to self-delude."
There are a couple of chapters at the end where Williams explains more technically what her autism consists of and what it isn’t; she then gives some indicators as to how to approach someone with autism, adult or child. Some of this information would seem to be very useful, although I had some issues with the use of the word retardation. I have some experience with autism in terms of my work and there are as many different approaches and solutions as there are people.
This is a very good account of a difficult and abusive childhood, adolescence and early adulthood from someone who has the ability to write eloquently about it all and to clearly explain how she experienced the world.
Profile Image for Czarny Pies.
2,532 reviews1 follower
March 8, 2018
Ce roman est un grand classique de la littérature sur l'autisme. Ça vaut vraiment la peine de le lire même s'il ne vous est pas facile de lire l'anglais. Une revue française et en bas.

"Nobody Nowhere" is nothing like the vast majority of books published on Autism in North America every year which seem to be intended to be sold at conferences where the author is a speaker. "Nobody Nowhere" is highly sincere and very well written. In it Donna Williams eloquently tells the story of the hell that she lived for 28 years as an undiagnosed person on the Autistic spectrum. "Nobody Nowhere" remains highly topical. The assessment tools in use today were designed for a male population which means that a significant number of girls on the Autism Spectrum continue to go undiagnosed.
Donna Williams was born in Australia in 1963. She had learning problems but her parents never secured a diagnosis. Her mother began to hate her and beat her. As a result of the physical and psychological abuse, Donna developed dissociative identity disorder which further compounded her problems. At 15 Donna fled her home. She would spend the next 12 years passing from one job to another. At the same time she went through a long series of relationships with men in which she was exploited financially and subjected to more abuse. Remarkably she obtained a university degree when she was 27. When she was 28, she finally learned that she suffered from Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Things have changed since Donna Williams' time. It is now very rare for a boy with autism not to be diagnosed before the end of elementary school. Today, Speech pathologists, psychologists and other professionals working with children on the ASD spectrum understand how important it is to support the parents so that that they do not become depressed or develop other mental health issues themselves. Problems do remain however. Recent research has shown that the diagnostic tools currently in use which were developed for a male population are failing to detect many girls who have ASD. The attitudes of the general public towards individuals with ASD is much better than it was 40 years ago but progress still needs to be made. The implementation of strategies in the classroom to support ASD children remains erratic.

Contrairement à la grande majorité des livres publiés en anglais sur l'autisme qui sont absolument affreux, "Nobody Nowhere" est extrêmement bon. Cette autobiographie écrite par une jeune femme atteint du trouble du spectre de l'autisme (TSA) fait un plaidoyer éloquent pour le dépistage précoce qui est toujours très actuels étant donné que des recherches récentes que les tests dépistage employés actuellement fonctionnent assez mal chez les filles. En plus d'une contribution importante au débat sur le dépistage et le traitement de l'autisme, "Nobody Nowhere" possède aussi des bonnes qualités littéraires. Ce roman le raconte brillamment l'histoire d'une personne courageuse qui a mené une vie d'enfer pendant presque trente ans.
Donna Williams est née dans une famille australienne en 1963. Elle manifestait des problèmes d'apprentissage mais ses parents n'ont pas obtenu un diagnostic. La mère s'est mise à la détester et à la battre. Grace aux abus physiques et psychologiques, le trouble dissociatif de l'identité s'est développé chez Donna ce qui a aggravé ses problèmes considérablement. À l’âge de 15 ans Donna va s'enfuir de la maison familiale. Pendant douze ans elle va passer d'un emploi à l'autre et avoir des multiples affaires amoureuses. Elle obtiendra son diplôme universitaire à 27 ans et à 28 ans elle apprendra finalement qu'elle est autistique.
Les choses se sont évolués depuis l'époque des événements racontés dans "Nobody Nowhere". La majorité des cas d'autisme chez les garçons sont diagnostiqués avant la fin de l'école élémentaire. C'est très rare de nos jours qu’un garçon finit l'école secondaire avant de recevoir un diagnostic. Du coté des filles, il existe un problème sérieux toujours car les tests employés par les orthophonistes et les psychologues ont été développés pour une population male. Donc, il y a toujours bien des cas chez les filles qui ne sont pas dépistés.
Aussi, même si aujourd'hui les parents des enfants autistiques sont beaucoup mieux accompagnés qu'à l'époque des parents de Donna Williams, il reste beaucoup du chemin à faire.
Profile Image for Mary K.
481 reviews23 followers
February 26, 2021
A fascinating read. Amazing that anyone who had (she passed away from breast cancer some years ago) her level of autism figured out pretty much on her own how to function. Also astonishing is her level of introspection and ability to communicate all of it in writing.
Profile Image for Lisa McKenzie.
277 reviews28 followers
January 16, 2009
It felt like a real privilege to see the world through an autistic point of view. A one of a kind achievement.
Profile Image for Erica.
Author 5 books136 followers
February 22, 2020
I felt an overwhelming sense of sadness while reading this book. Aside from the fact that the writer is autistic, I felt everything she felt. She endured a lot of abuse in her lifetime, which only reminded me of mine. I had mini flashbacks of my childhood as I read about her life. The way her mind works and the things she felt about herself, reminds me of myself. This is definitely one of my all-time favorite non-fiction books. I recommend to anyone who wants to learn more about how an autistic mind works.
Profile Image for Kristi.
11 reviews1 follower
December 23, 2019
This was the first book I read after my oldest son was diagnosed with autism because it was the only book on this in our small town public library. I’m so glad I did because it’s a first person account of what it’s like to be an autistic person, rather then a clinical explanation. Eventually all three of my kids were diagnosed with autism, & I’m thankful for insight & foundation Donna’s books gave me so early in my journey. Nearly 20 years later, this book continues to hold memories & meaning.
Donna, or rather Polly, as she later preferred to be called, was an incredible human being, writer & also, a friend. I hasten to say, we weren’t close friends, but she called me after she was diagnosed with cancer, which means a great deal to me. I hold that conversation close to my heart. Polly was simply...amazing. Extraordinary. She was courageous & beautiful & creature. Her art hangs on my walls & I think of her often.
Read this book. And know that this incredible human being never stopped learning, growing, expanding her knowledge, skills & creativity. It’s the same with my own kids. I’m thankful I learned this from her.
I love you, Polly. You are missed, but your books & your art made you unforgettable. Thank you.
Profile Image for Aurélien Thomas.
Author 10 books111 followers
July 15, 2020

'I believe I was born alienated, and if not, I was certainly so by the time I got left behind in emotional development at about the age of three. Autistic people are not mad, not stupid. They are not fairies, not aliens -just people trapped in invisible, crippled emotional responses. At the same time it would be misleading to think that such people do not feel.'

Every life experience is different. When it comes to autism, Donna Williams (who wasn't diagnosed until she had reached adulthood) certainly ticked many of the expected boxes -the hypersensitivity; the spinning and jumping; loosing herself into objects while trying to avoid people; the obsession with classifying, ordering and copying; the challenging behaviours (by her own reckoning: aggressive, uncooperative, disruptive); the lack of common sense; her way of talking 'at' people, not 'with' (which her family pejoratively called 'wonking')… Yet, how much of that was down to autism? How much to her very own personal upbringing?

The thing is, Donna Williams grew up in a dysfunctional family and was particularly abused, as a child, by her mother (who wanted her locked up into an institution against the prevailing wishes of her father). The home dynamic was toxic; and when children grow up into such traumatic environment, whatever the type of abuse being melted upon them it leaves scars that always get carried into adulthood. It's all part of an emotional make up and learnt ways to cope so as to survive. She, of course, didn't escape that, although she mitigates it ('my home life affected some of the forms that my behaviour took, though not the behaviour itself'). She actually went as far as to depersonalise herself, creating herself different personalities to help her cope with the outside world. Was there here an issue with mental illness? Well, she was first diagnosed, wrongly as it turned out, with schizophrenia...

What's truly sad here is to see her repeating self-harming patterns -the abusive boyfriends, the precarious jobs, living on the poverty line when not, at time, being homeless... Beyond autism, here's indeed the autobiography of one of these countless runaway girls fleeing abusive homes, just to end up being abused again and again, until abusing even themselves (e.g. she will reach the point of self-mutilating). Is that steering away from autism as such? Not really. After all, abused childhood or not, autistic people too are at risk of abuses and exploitation, and they too struggle with personal relationships, let alone finding a place in society and on the job market!

We moved a long way from her era, though. She grew up in the seventies, and this book was first published in 1992. What I also found interesting here is the mindset from that period, not so far back in time. There's the taboo if not ignorance (denial?) as to her condition (she was simply labelled 'disturbed', a lack of proper recognition which seriously messed up her schooling to start with, while her mum overall was perceived as being one of those 'refrigerator mother'...). There's the confusion even among the medical profession (again, her misdiagnosis as schizophrenic; a common mistake back then...). One cannot, in fact, but wonder what would have happened had she grew up a few decades later? Her life would certainly (or so we hope) have been very different...

Here's an extraordinary autobiography indeed. Her path might not be the typical path of an autistic, and many things have changed since the seventies and eighties. Nevertheless, the insight into her mind as an autistic, and, the story of her reckoning and triumph through a painful journey remains a powerful and harrowing account. It still worth a read if you have any interest in autism.
Profile Image for Ines.
321 reviews198 followers
August 2, 2016
non ho parole per descrivere la sensazione che si prova leggendo questo libro.....mi sento una nullità di fronte alla normale vita quotidiana e alle sfide insormontabili che alcune persone devono affrontare nei piccoli gesti del vivere.....
Dio nostro, un giorno ci spiegherai perchè a ciascuno il proprio destino??
Profile Image for Arminzerella.
3,745 reviews87 followers
January 27, 2009
Donna Williams wasn’t diagnosed with autism until she was in her mid-late twenties – and she self-diagnosed at that point and had already written her autobiography, which she then shared with a physician who told her that it should be published. She had a very rocky childhood with a mother and older brother who were at least verbally abusive (her mother was also occasionally physically abusive). Donna’s relationship with her father was better, but he remained aloof or distant. She spent some time being homeless or moving obsessively from place to place and job to job, never keeping friends for long. She found it difficult to connect with people and with the world as herself, and invented several personas to deal with different situations (Carol and Willie, for instance). She often found herself in other abusive relationships, with boyfriends taking advantage of her, still she managed to (finally) extract herself from these, get a college education, and learn to understand herself and her relationships with others. Particularly interesting is how much of her difficulties were alleviated by altering her diet – she had many food allergies that contributed to her problems.

I wanted to like this book more than I did. I found it really difficult to get inside of Donna Williams’ mind (and her writing), which felt read kind of choppy and all over the place. Maybe this is supposed to lend it a more immediate feel? Or, it’s just how she processes her own experience of living with autism and it’s not ever going to be something that I can fully grasp. I’d like to read more about autism and how it manifests in people – Donna is described as a “highly functioning” autistic, but there are people who function less well. It’s clear from her story that Donna has had to fight to be a part of and stay “in the world” – the one we all share as opposed to the one that she created for herself for safety and reprieve – and this seems to be something that autistics share with schizophrenics and other people who get inventive or disconnect when they can’t deal with what’s going on around them.

I was most taken by the last chapters and Donna’s after word in which she describes how she was able to relate to other autistic people/children. She was even able to help them by demonstrating to them the ways in which she’d learned to cope when outside influences became too much for her to deal with. The way that they communicated was really different from how most non-autistic people communicate – it was like they had their very own language that was immediately understandable to its native speakers. I’d like to read more about this. I’m curious about whether earlier understanding and communication might help more autistic children become as highly functioning as Donna is.

There’s a new(er) book out called, Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger’s, by John Elder Robison, that’s on my to-read list, which has received some good reviews. I might try that and see how these compare.
Profile Image for Valarie.
526 reviews13 followers
July 22, 2017
**Some people have called the author's autism diagnosis into question, claiming she actually suffers from dissociative identity disorder, which does make sense. Do not read this book as one of your first autism memoirs**

This is an incredible story of a woman with autism learning how to function in neurotypical society, and an intriguing look at the personal experiences of Autism Spectrum Disorders. I'll admit, though, that for anyone uninterested in autism, this memoir may fall flat, because there isn't a main theme or narrative to the story otherwise.
Profile Image for Ilie Ruby.
Author 5 books111 followers
December 5, 2010
Brava. Brava. Brava. A rare and believable look into the world of an autistic woman that found her way out of this daunting condition. Williams writes with unmistakable clarity and eloquence as she illuminates a rarely seen journey.

This is not to be surpassed by her next book [Somebody Somewhere:]. A must-read for anyone who is interested in the dynamic associations of perception and sensory processing conditions.
Profile Image for Karen Yarrington.
2 reviews1 follower
November 11, 2012
Amazing book for anyone who loves an autistic person! If you ever want to delve into an autistic's mysterious world--read this book. It's the story of Donna, who was very abused and misunderstood while growing up in "her world" and yet was able to figure out for herself that everyone else lived in a different world--"the world". Many severely autistic people have a hard time understanding, let alone explaining, this difference to us--most don't even want to try. She is a gift!
Profile Image for Luz Alvarado.
19 reviews
February 21, 2022
Nadie en ningún lugar ha mantenido mis expectativas que tenía antes de leerle. Es realmente interesante descubrir obras de autores diversos, tal vez un poco distantes de los comúnmente conocidos a nivel mundial. Justo aquí entra Nadie en ningún lugar, que es la biografía de Donna Williams, una mujer autista que pasa años buscando una identidad, buscando ser “normal”, encontrando en sí misma un mundo tan diferente al mundo exterior, una mujer autista que no sabía que era autista, debido a la poca información acerca del tema en las épocas de los 60’s a los 80’s, en donde se sitúa la niñez y adolescencia de Donna.

¡Qué peligrosa es la desinformación! No había un diagnóstico preciso para Donna, tampoco el apoyo y estabilidad emocional en la familia, pues su vida estuvo plagada de injusticias y violencia, de ignorancia y abusos. Para la mayoría, Donna estaba “loca”.

Debo admitir que para tener pocas correcciones y edición, el libro mantiene un ritmo coherente, la mayoría de las partes están adaptadas cronológicamente, también tienen el toque de memorias, pues describe muy bien los diferentes entornos donde se desarrolla, al leerlas uno imagina cada detalle que ella describe, es como un viaje al tiempo a ese momento en que Donna en su soledad, describe sus sensaciones, sus miedos, el mundo que ella ha construido y como se ha relacionado con el exterior a través de diferentes personajes, es donde va buscando explicaciones de su vida, del comportamiento de los demás, de la dificultad de crear relaciones. Ella es una autista de alto funcionamiento (o también Síndrome de Asperger), ha “ideado” un plan para sobrevivir al mundo, y lo ha logrado.

Sin embargo, Donna sabe que cada ser humano con autismo tiene diferentes realidades, diferentes formas de conectar y de intentar atraerlos a las llamadas “complejidades del mundo”.

Ha llegado un punto en que me he perdido, aunque he tratado de leerle con el mayor respeto en cada una de sus líneas, y es donde Donna reconoce en ella este espectro, y comienza a hablarnos del pensamiento consciente y la realización de la mente, así como de su relación con el hecho de sentir y de ser capaz de confiar, progresivamente en la conciencia de los sentimientos, quizás es aquí donde como seres humanos nos es complejo entender ese mundo interior, quizás es esta parte la de mayor importancia y análisis después de leer la biografía.

En el postfacio encontramos dos preguntas que me hacen explotar la cabeza “¿Qué puede ser en cada caso «responder de una manera indirecta» para permitir al sujeto la construcción de su propia respuesta y acompañarlo en este trabajo? ¿Qué extraño vínculo puede suponer esta «muestra de desapego» que no es sin embargo una indiferencia y que permite recuperar la vía que el sujeto mismo nos mostraba en sus extremas dificultades para poder tratar su sufrimiento? Intentar responder a estas dos preguntas en cada caso es el principio de un tratamiento posible que no se oriente inevitablemente según los prejuicios que cada uno tiene sobre lo que es la buena y sana normalidad, prejuicio que siempre actuará como un mal criterio clínico”.

Donna se ha descubierto a sí misma, y ha hablado lo que muchos han callado. Explica que las intenciones fundadas en una idea de normalidad pueden tener consecuencias prácticas inversas, redoblando la segregación a la que se ve llevado el sujeto autista, en pocas palabras, puede perjudicarlo, porque no hay un tratamiento común para todos, es un espectro que se manifiesta distinto.

Más que una autobiografía, Nadie en ningún lugar es una voz que habla por muchos niños, jóvenes, adultos, con esta condición. Es una forma de entender, de relacionarse a su manera, no a la manera de los demás. Es una voz que pide un lugar en el mundo, sin abandonar el mundo interior.
Personalmente, esta historia me ha quebrado. Cuánta resiliencia y fortaleza tiene Donna, quien para mí es una mujer admirable en todas sus “facetas”, ha abierto una puerta a algo nunca conocido en su totalidad. Definitivamente, estoy ansiosa de leer Alguien en algún lugar, diario de una victoria contra el autismo.

Donna Williams es una mujer cautivadora, dulce. La percibo así mientras lee fragmentos de su libro, y pienso en la belleza de sus palabras y su voz. No hay muchos videos en su canal de YT, solo aparece ella frente al monitor. Donna falleció en 2017. No asimilo que una luz tan radiante se haya apagado tan joven. Quiero pensar que con su legado esa luz sigue encendida.
Profile Image for Jigme Datse.
99 reviews5 followers
January 17, 2016
This was a bit of an odd read. I read it just after reading Somebody Somewhere: Breaking Free from the World of Autism, and it was kind of doing that "backwards". I read it that order because for some reason while trying to pick up this book, I ended up with the other one. Which of course was fine.

I found this one was not *quite* the "this is the book for me" as the continuation in Somebody Somewhere. I'm not really sure what kind of was "missing" here, or what was here which was "bothering" me.

The writing was very similar. There were bits of it which I really felt hit things very much on the head. But I felt somewhat disappointed with this. But then, I also found the ending of Somebody Somewhere really sad in a lot of ways. Maybe not in the same sort of "problematic" ways I was bothered by how this one ended.

This one, I feel that there was too much "explanation" and all that towards the end which felt a lot more like "we need to put this in or your readers won't understand" type stuff than actually it being there because she felt it was important.

Still it was really good. Now on to whatever is next...
Profile Image for Gina.
270 reviews
October 6, 2014
This was a bit of a hard read. At first, I thought it had to do with reading about the devastating home life Donna had to put up with in her growing-up years. But as I got into the last third of the book, it just felt more like a slogging through. I know it's an autobiography, but even still, such accounts usually have a strong tie-together; common themes that yield some sort of self-discovery or grand life lesson. I felt like that wasn't very apparent here. I just kept reading about Donna's attempts to interact with others, and ultimately failing. Trying again to interact with others, and failing. Trying, and failing. And the book ends as if she says, "Oh, well. I guess that's me." Sort of a sense of resignation. I suppose maybe that's the point. The title "Nobody, Nowhere" definitely fits as the overarching theme of the book, but I don't really like it... Though I can't tell if that's on a technical level in the way the book was written or on an emotional level in the way I responded to the story presented.
Profile Image for En Hikmah.
55 reviews2 followers
June 28, 2007
I read the Indonesia version.
Yang paling menakjubkan saya rasakan secara pribadi adalah kemampuannya bertahan dan mwujudkan cita-cita. Dalam keterbatasan yang luar biasa menyulitkan baik diri sendiri maupun orang lain, tapi Donna Williams bisa terus bergerak dan melakukan hal-hal yang dia inginan. Memperoleh pendidikan seperti orang lain, bekerja seperti orang lain dan hidup seperti orang lain, dnegan kemampuannya sendiri. Dan yang istimewa lagi...dia bisa berkeliling dunia bahkan dengan keadaan yang sangat mengenaskan. Bukankah itu yangingin ditunjukkan pada kita..orang orang yang sehat sempurna??
Profile Image for Merilee.
57 reviews
January 13, 2009
This book is interesting for me, because I work with students with autism. It was difficult to read at times, because the author has suffered a great deal of abuse throughout her life, and so it was heavy. But there were gems in there - answers to why she did the things I see my students doing, which were well worth the read.

If nothing else, the two sections after the conclusion of her story at the back, where she describes the meaning of her "language" and tips for interacting with and influencing young people with autism was amazing.
Profile Image for Nanny SA.
332 reviews39 followers
December 15, 2010
Kisah perjuangan seorang gadis autis yang terlahir dari keluarga miskin dan hidup teraniaya. Menambah pengetahuan tentang anak autis., layak untuk dibaca oleh orang tua atau pendidik yang menangani autis.

"aku tidak tahu bagaimana menuntut untuk dipahami. Aku tersesat, terjebak dan aku sedang membuat pernyataan..Waktu itu usiaku 9 tahun dan aku hampir-hampir dikirim ke rumah sakit jiwa .."
Profile Image for Jennifer.
Author 15 books1,048 followers
January 27, 2009
Another of many books I have read, because I have a child with autism. Ms. Williams' account is enlightening and heart breaking and a must read for any person working with or living with someone afflicted with autism. Her insights will enlighten and educate others about the complicated, mysterious affliction growing too rapidly in our country to ignore any longer.
Profile Image for Nina Lenciano.
111 reviews13 followers
January 14, 2015
A great book to take a peek in a very unique world. I salute Donna Williams for being strong despite everything she had experienced.
Profile Image for Colleen.
27 reviews
June 28, 2015
This book was really interesting. I would definitely recommend it. It was cool to see how Donna viewed the world and how she overcame different things throughout her life.
625 reviews15 followers
August 22, 2021
Rated PG-13 for child abuse and some sexuality (albeit distantly told).

“In my case, my mind knows that affection and kindness will not kill me, yet my emotional response defies this logic, telling me that good feelings and gentle and loving touch can kill me or at the very least cause me pain. … This state leads to my emotions committing suicide, leaving me without physical or emotional feeling and with a purely robotic mental response—if that.” (p. 205)

Such is one of the summary statements of Donna’s autism, of life in which she had to resort to many intermediary coping mechanisms in order to deal with the world that always seemed alien and dangerous. Donna’s experience was only compounded by her mother’s hatred and abuse, her older brother’s complicity in the abuse, her father’s indifference (and his own violent behavior, even though not directed against Donna), and her loving grandfather’s early death. From infancy, Donna had no natural allies in her world; I wonder, if she had grown up in a loving and functional family, how her life might have been different. That said, by the end, she concludes that her negligent mother was a God-given blessing because her mother’s neglect left the door open for Donna to eventually find her way out of her emotional prison. The odd thing about that assumption is that Donna believes that love is necessarily smothering. Make of this what you will; but is it not also possible that “love is not love which alters when it alteration finds,” as Shakespeare said? (Sonnet 116)

Donna’s is a remarkable story of emotional crippling and her efforts to shield and protect herself from the terrors of the world around her. She creates characters through whom she can relate to the world while protecting herself—that is, she creates and takes on the role of an actor who cannot take off the mask lest she be made bare and stripped to the bone. The masks seem to be her only reprieve, destructive as they are to her body and soul. For they allow her to believe her body, mind, and soul—including her emotions—are all three distinct and separate and can be held apart to a point, as “needed.”

This account also makes me contemplate how a Christian might properly and lovingly approach the very real needs of a man or woman with autism, from the perspective of how we were created to be and how the Fall into sin has affected each of us through dividing us from God, one another, and even dividing that in ourselves that should be whole and undivided.
Profile Image for anna.
68 reviews8 followers
February 16, 2023
Mimo niewielkich rozmiarów, nie dałam rady przeczytać tej książki szybko. Ogrom przemocy zarówno fizycznej jak i psychicznej, jakich doświadczyła autorka, był przerażający i przytłaczający. Niektórzy naprawdę nie powinni mieć dzieci.
1 review
May 13, 2017
This autobiography is compelling, it draws the reader in. It tells the story of an autistic woman who only as an adult finds out that this is the label that best fits her. I don't agree with some of the reviews here that this book is an "awkward fiction" rather than an accurate account of autism. Donna does not even use the label until towards the end of the book, so it is unlikely she was simply trying to capitalize on the label to write a book. The book relates how she grapples with being different, it tells us of her journey of trying to understand why this is the case, and of trying to overcome some of her difficulties related to being different, and autistic. Of course, as any other person her life experiences are colored by various factors, rather than one specific label. In Donna's case, she was affected quite considerably by abuse in her home environment. More generally, she was often misunderstood by people. An interesting aspect of this book is that it makes visible that being autistic is made more difficult by the lack of understanding and accommodation of others. Donna's autistic features made her vulnerable to abuse and being mocked. Fortunately she did meet some compassionate people and a few kindred spirits along the way. Donna develops different personalities to cope with being different. I noticed that for some people posting a review here this means that her account testifies less to autism and more to multiple personality disorder. While reading this book, I did also think of multiple personality disorder but I did not see this as invalidating her account of autism. I felt that she was conveying how in her personal journey to cope with difference, she developed multiple personalities to protect herself and to be able to communicate with the world without making herself too vulnerable, and to try to pass as neurotypical.. Overall, I think this book is well-written and provides good insight in what it could be like to be autistic [copy of my amazon review]
Profile Image for Lelly.
13 reviews
August 21, 2009
Batinku sakit melihat kedua staf membombardir gadis kecil itu dengan tubuh mereka, napas mereka, bau mereka, tawa mereka, gerakan dan kebisingan mereka. Seperti orang gila, menggoyang-goyangkan mainan ular dan berbagai objek lain ke muka si gadis; seperti sepasang penyihir yang terlalu bersemangat dan berharap mampu menghancurkan pengaruh jahat autisme, seperti ahli bedah yang mengoperasi dengan alat-alat berkebun tanpa menggunakan obat bius. Dan gadis kecil itu berteriak: tubuhnya bergoyang-goyang, kedua lengannya menutupi kupingnya...

Aku merasa ditelanjangi di kelas ini...

Sebagai seorang autistik, Donna ternyata justru mampu bersikap empatik saat menjadi asisten pengajar di sekolah untuk anak-anak berkebutuhan khusus. Pekerjaan itu juga membuat Donna semakin mengenal dirinya sendiri, untuk kemudian bangkit secara luar biasa meski tetap dengan penuh kepedihan menyelesaikan pendidikannya, sekaligus menjalani terapi psikiatrik. Donna Williams kini juga bertekad bulat untuk sepenuhnya menjadi Donna sebenar-benarnya Donna, bukan Carol si burung beo atau Willie si monyet pintar.

Bagaimana Donna meruntuhkan tembok-tembok kaca yang selama ini mengurungnya? Bagaimana dia menghadapi dunia sebagai Donna? Bagaimana dia menyusun kembali puing-puing kehidupannya, setelah dia menangkan perang melawan autismenya itu?

Namaku Donna: Melepaskan Diri dari Belenggu Autisme adalah memoar kedua Donna Williams setelah Dunia di Balik Kaca. Kembali, dalam buku ini pun, Donna menyadarkan kita tentang nilai sebuah kehidupan betapa pun pahitnya.

"Donna Williams yang dikaruniai jiwa artistik ini

terus membangun jembatan antara 'dunianya' dan 'dunia'."

Publishers Weekly
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