Sarah Nannery is someone you can trust for book recommendations. Because it was between the covers of memoirs by autistic women that she learned so much about herself. The stories suggested to Nannery that, after a lifetime of feeling different, she might be on the spectrum. Nannery, who’s now the director of development for autism initiatives at Drexel University, officially got diagnosed with autism at age 31.
“I saw myself in those pages. I saw myself in their experiences,” she told theSkimm. “I was like: This is my childhood. This is how my brain works.” Reading those books and finding out that she was autistic helped her “hugely” with understanding herself, she said.
We wanted to help other people try to understand themselves — or people they know on the spectrum — a bit more, too. So Nannery agreed to serve as our librarian. And shared some titles that have had a positive impact on her life. Starting with her own.
Nannery has a neurodiverse family: Her husband and daughter are neurotypical, while she and her son are autistic. Understanding their neurological differences has helped Nannery and her husband, Larry, navigate family dynamics. And also their romantic relationship and work life. They wrote about it all in a book that shares both of their perspectives. (Amazon, Apple Books, Bookshop)
Journalist Laura James writes about the sensory overload she gets from the world around her — even when it’s “quiet.” Although she generally tries to maintain a sense of neutrality in her environment and avoid any big emotions, she writes vividly and candidly about her perceptions. And effectively articulates what it’s like to be a woman with autism who didn’t get diagnosed until her 40s. “Sameness is my anchor,” she wrote. “I want each day to unfold quietly and predictably.” Nannery said the book was eye-opening. (Amazon, Apple Books)
Though some of the memoir’s wording is a bit outdated (“Asperger’s is no longer a term that we use,” Nannery said), it’s another poignant title that inspired Nannery to seek an autism diagnosis. Willey Holliday was also diagnosed with autism as an adult, even though she had been evaluated by a psychiatrist as a kid. But at that time, she was given a different diagnosis: “gifted and indulged. Smart and spoiled.” Thing to know: Historically, girls haven’t been screened for autism as closely as boys. (Amazon, Bookshop)
While this book also uses the retired “Asperger’s” term, Nannery found it particularly helpful for writing about co-parenting and love in her own book. In “Long-Term Relationships,” Standford (who’s neurotypical), writes about how she realized that eight years married, there was something she didn’t understand about her husband. He was later diagnosed with autism, and she became an expert on the topic. (Amazon, Bookshop)
This book is more than a decade old. But it’s a resource for interviewing and communicating that Nannery has relied on in life and for her book. Simone is herself a consultant and musician who has autism. And writes about the things she’s learned, along with advice from over 50 other autistic adults. (Amazon, Apple Books, Bookshop)
Fifteen autistic women (including editor Cook and author Willey Holliday) share guidance, challenges, and intimate stories. If you’re autistic and want to hear from people who “get” you, or just want to better understand what being on the spectrum is like, this collection has you covered. And it isn’t afraid to answer tough questions about health, safety, and addiction. (Amazon, Bookshop)
Parents of autistic children, this read is for you. Instead of being the typical parenting book by a child psychologist, “Sincerely” is written and edited by autistic women and nonbinary people. The goal: to help parents of young kids or teens with autism accept and embrace their kids. (Amazon, Apple Books, Bookshop)
Skimm'd by Carly Mallenbaum, Anthony Rivas, and Alicia Valenski
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Growing up, Sarah Nannery thought she was just “quiet, thoughtful, highly sensitive, and perhaps a little shy.” Then, at 31 years old, she was diagnosed with autism.
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