I am proud to announce that the First Annual Writers on Autism reading will be held in New York City this week on Thursday, June 7, at 7p.m. at the Lifespire Education and Conference Center on the third floor of the Empire State Building.
Eight "diverse" -- and this reading may give that term new meaning -- writers, both accomplished and up-and-coming, will read from their published and unpublished works which are either about autism or of importance to the autism community. Four mothers of autistic individuals -- representing a total of eight sons and daughters on the autism spectrum -- will read. Two individuals who are on the spectrum themselves will also read.
With one in 150 individuals now being diagnosed with autism, those of us who have autism -- or who are relatives or teachers or friends or therapists or doctors of individuals with autism -- are a historic community whether we like being lumped together or not.
Perhaps one of our responsibilities as members of that community is to make sure that there is a body of literature that illuminates who we are: A compilation of our very-true and not-entirely-true tales, our controversies, our novels and short stories, our tall and short tales, our hopes, myths and miracles.
A body of work, in short, to help those who come after us understand us.
Those of us who are writers can do this by writing and by reading our works. Those of us who are readers can do this by listening, asking questions and supporting the writing of autism by purchasing books by those who have published them.
We have, as they say in show business, a great line-up.
* Kim Stagliano, who blogs here frequently and is writing an autism novel. She is the mother of three girls with autism and is planning on reading her essay "Crapisode," a rendition of life with autism now considered a classic in the community.
* John Robison whose new memoir, Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger's, is sure to be a bestseller in the fall. He is also Augusten Burroughs' brother and writes about life in that well-known family from his own perspective.
* Sheila Kohler, a beloved, respected and renowned New York City novelist who will read a real-life tale about being the parent of a disabled young woman. Sheila Kohler's latest novel is Bluebird, The Invention of Happiness.
* Landon J. Napoleon, author of the classic autism novel ZigZag, in which a young man with autism is a protagonist who defies the stereotypes and whose every emotion we feel ourselves. A book ahead of its time and a worthy companion to The Curious Incident of the Dog in Nighttime.
* Michele Pierce Burns, whose forthcoming book, I Love Everything About You, was inspired by her son Danson Mandela Wambua, 8, who has autism. Many will surely remember the writer in her days as a young actress on The Cosby Show. More recently she has written for Essence and Ebony , has appeared in the Autism Speaks documentary, Autism Every Day.
* Michele Iallonardi, the mother of three boys with autism and a journalist who has written for The Autism Perspective (TAP) magazine, Autism Spectrum Quarterly and Exceptional Parent. She was also in Autism Every Day.
* Rachel Kaplan, a matriculating student at Hofstra University, who has autism and is traditionally nonverbal. As a graduate of Locust Valley High School on Long Island she won a coveted writing award and, as an acknowledged pioneer in the practice of facilitated communication, she now types independently
* I will read too, either from my autism novel, Confidential Sources, or from my nonfiction work-in-progress: Dan in the World: One of the First Victims of the Autism Epidemic Grows Up, Moves On and Moves Out.
Please come. The event is free and open to the public. No RSVPs are required.
And, yes, everyone is invited.
So please come whether you think autism is a disease caused by environmental toxins or genetic defects, or a combination. Or whether you believe it is not caused by anything at all or shouldn't be considered a disease and/or there is no reason to cure it. Please come even if you think autism is caused by Martians or scary snakes. (I know one young man with autism who just might think that way. And I hope he comes).
Which brings me to this: Please come even if you have autism and do not behave "typically," whatever that is. Please bring your child with autism too. And then let's all do our best -- it is all we can do -- to let the writers read and the readers ask questions at the end.
By the the way, it was a Columbia University psychiatrist testifying at a New York State Legislative hearing earlier this year, who called autism the "fastest evolving disorder in all of medical science."
He also opined that it might not be an epidemic.
I don't agree with him on that. But I hope he comes too.
For more about this event please listen to Maverick Mama on Autismone.org Internet Radio.