Community members and folks from outside our communities have shared many compliments about All the Weight of Our Dreams on sites like Amazon and GoodReads — here are a few of their comments, with all gratitude and appreciation for the work of the dozens and dozens of writers, bloggers, artists, activists, cultural workers, advocates, and organizers featured in the anthology:
Marcela, rating us 4/5 stars on GoodReads, 22 April 2018:
An incredible diversity of viewpoints with pieces from people of varying ethnic backgrounds, sexualities and ages, even including a seven year old. A true work of neurodiversity and intersectionality though you don’t have to be familiar with either concept to appreciate this.
Danni Green, rating us 5/5 stars on GoodReads, 1 March 2018:
This extremely important and powerful anthology is already my most-recommended book of the year.
Nayonni Watts, rating us 5/5 stars on Amazon, 21 February 2018:
Representation of People of Color on the Autism Spectrum
Best book I’ve related to on a personal note!
Justice Ross, rating us 5/5 stars on Amazon, 8 February 2018:
must-read for future therapists like me; comfort to people like me.
As an autistic, biracial (but white looking, and going into reading this as an ally, though there were moments that deeply connected with me as a Native American) woman and future music therapist, this book means the world to me. I am, so far, a third of the way through at most, and it has been a lifeline in the areas where it struck me most close to home, where I dog-eared a page and went “that’s me, that’s me and no one has put this into words before but me!” and a thousand insights into other people’s lives and the demands of allyship and advocacy for the people around me.
A must-read, in my opinion, for any future therapists, educators, etc who intend to work with autistic clients, because I think it is CRUCIAL that we remember autistic people of color and we hear each other’s voices.Who the book is FOR, though, is autistic people ourselves and particularly autistic people of color, and it is beautiful, broad, and guarantees, no matter who you are, a look into the life of someone far in a different position on the spectrum and in the world from you. These are the kinds of connections that I find so valuable. In our similarities, and in our differences, in every page that is entirely disparate from the last chapter/last author and entirely new.
Renee Starowicz, rating us 5/5 stars on Amazon, 9 November 2017
This collection of short personal pieces forms into a powerful compilation and must-read text. I ordered it as soon as I could – and frankly – I think you should too. The editors’ note highlights their focus on the deepening of content and ideas through the editorial process. This work resonates in each of the six parts of this text: Laying the Groundwork, Neurodivergence in a Neurotypical World, Intersected Realities, Our Personal is Political, Cultural Work and Movement Building and Autistry. A valuable contribution to any personal reading collection, reading group, and critical education classroom.
Ralph Savarese, rating us 5/5 stars on Amazon, 9 November 2017:
An absolutely essential book, one that fills a huge gap in autism and neurodiversity studies. Admirably edited, with a richness beyond measure.
Rebecca Hare, rating us 5/5 stars on Amazon, 9 November 2017:
a MUST read for anyone Autistic or who loves an Autistic.
If you’re raising a Autistic child this is a MUST read. It should be a primer for child psychologists, social workers, parents, siblings, etc. it’s a great gift for a young Autistic person as well—gave it to a friend who told me she had never seen her voice in print before!!
K. Cevik, rating us 5/5 stars on Amazon, 7 October 2017:
Read it. Doing so will expand your view of the experience of disability from the perspective of marginalized disabled people in their own voices. What is sad about this is the idea that these voices are not part of the complete autism conversation but must step up and continue to publish anthologies to be heard. It is our responsibility to amplify their voices and understand them. That is the only way transformative change will happen.
Anonymous, rating us 5/5 stars on Amazon, 23 September 2017
I was introduced to this book in my doctoral program in Special Education/Disability Studies in Education. I love it. It is so important to read the perspectives of people from communities that identify as Autistic versus always relying on academics that don’t have a first person experience.
Martha, rating us 3/5 stars on GoodReads, 29 August 2017:
Autism is many things. But it is seldom what it is perceived by people to be. It isn’t a tragedy. It isn’t a ravaged life. It isn’t an entity that destroys lives. It isn’t a disease.
– Morenike Giwa Onaiwu
This is an important collection of essays, poetry and artwork from autistic women of color talking about how ableism intersects with other oppressions; particularly racism but also sexism and homophobia. There were three themes that I found particularly powerful:
I accepted his implicit judgment that the ability to act abled meant that one was not really disabled. And that is the unfortunate consequence for those who are good enough at acting abled. Once people think of you as abled any time you are unable to keep up the act is seen as something to be suspicious of.
– Amanda Filteau
First, the concept of ‘passing’. I was aware of this idea from other literature about race and sexuality. ‘Passing privilege’ is the principle that one looks or acts like members of the “normal” group and so experience some of the privilege associated with that group. For example, some people of colour who have lighter skin may be able to pass as white, and so do not experience the same level of racial prejudice as those with darker skin. Likewise, bisexual people may automatically ‘pass’ for heterosexual if they are with a partner of the opposite gender identity, and so may not experience the same level of homophobia. This is not to say that this concept is entirely positive. For many who ‘pass’ it is due to assumptions on the part of society, and those assumptions can do just as much damage as the prejudice that’s been avoided. In the bisexual example, the person’s sexual identity is erased, as is common with bisexuality, due to assumptions that bisexual people are closeted homosexuals or experimenting heterosexuals.
Many of the writers in this anthology speak of having to “pass” for neurotypical, and the many costs of having to do that. In many cases, unlike the examples above, “passing” is not through lack of choice (e.g. as Daniel Au Valencia puts it “I put zero effort into making myself look more white”); hence the alternative description: “acting abled”. This language reflects the active, exhausting effort required to pass for neurotypical (read: “normal”). Like the examples above, it also costs people their pride and dignity in having to suppress part of their identity.
“I had ‘the talk’ with my kids this morning in the car. Not the ‘birds and the bees’ talk. The ‘how to stay alive because you’re black and therefore a threat’ talk.
– Morenike Giwa Onaiwu
The second theme that struck me was how this idea of ‘passing’ interacts with the racism experienced by autistics of colour. Police brutality against people of colour is so prevalent that parents must teach their children how to react (or more importantly, not to react) when coming into contact with the police, as a critical way of ensuring their survival. But what about when those children are neurodivergent? Many people on the autism spectrum show “self-stimulatory behaviour” (commonly called “stimming”) as a way of calming and/or stimulating themselves. Behaviours can include things like flapping hands, making sounds, repeating movements etc. Put this into the context of police brutality, and suddenly “acting abled” takes on a whole new level of necessity – a young African-American boy stimming when approached by the police could very well lead to his murder.
“Somebody I have to work with to survive will respect at most two of the three things that are most central to who I am: my race, my gender or my neurodivergence.”
– kiran foster
“This is also why I am frustrated and disappointed when disability activists speak about racism as though it’s over, or dismiss racism as irrelevant to ableism, as well as when organizers for racial justice are completely ignorant to disability issues, or dismiss ableism as simply no-existent or unconnected to racial oppression and white supremacy.”
– Lydia X Z Brown
The third theme is one of the core purposes of bring this anthology together – addressing the intersectionality of ableism and other oppressions. While many social movements are making headway in raising awareness of inequality, it is often siloed to a single issue and ignorant of how the issue intersects with others. For example, the mainstream feminist movement has long faced accusations of being for white, middle-class, cisgendered, able-bodied, heterosexual women. However, it is not just the feminist movement. Many disability activism groups do not consider race, gender or sexuality to be relevant, a common consequence of lack of representation of people of colour, women or LGBTQ+ people in the leadership of these organisations. When we think about the representation of autism in the media, it is commonly a young white boy. This has led to faulty perceptions such as the idea that women and people of colour cannot be autistic; or delays in diagnosis because of doctors categorising symptoms as just part of being from a certain race or culture.
Most people will hold multiple identities at any one time; if any or multiple of these are membership of oppressed social groups, how can one ever feel truly understood? If a person is disabled, of colour, and trans but each individual movement does not recognise the role of those other identities, then those people are never fully recognised.
I have two criticisms of this collection that stopped it getting a higher rating from me. Firstly, the length. This could easily have been two anthologies in my opinion. It wasn’t long because each piece was long, but simply there were too many pieces. I don’t believe that any piece was less deserving than the others, but the sheer volume made it a laborious read in places. A lot of pieces repeated similar ideas; and of course that’s important to demonstrate the breadth of an issue, but it also made it harder to differentiate between pieces and to stay engaged. Perhaps this is just the kind of collection that you need to dip in and out of.
The second problem I had was the jargon. While there is a note at the beginning explaining the approach to editing as focusing on substance over style (with the very pertinent point that “focusing too much on ‘proper’ spelling and grammar reinforces white, wealthy, educated ‘norms’ of language”), a glossary would have been hugely helpful. Terminology such as “stimming”, “echolalia” etc., went straight over my head and made some of the essays inaccessible to me as a reader who didn’t know a lot about neurodivergence when I started. I have no problem educating myself, but when one of the aims of this anthology seemed to be awareness raising, that aim is ultimately hindered if the reader is alienated by seemingly technical language they don’t understand.
Overall, this is a unique and important work in the field of intersectionality that I would recommend to anyone wanting to understand autism, neurodivergence, and racism in more detail.
“On every page, in every account, from every contributor, you will find one profound, universal theme threaded silently and artfully throughout the entire anthology. Again and again, you will find that the answer to the aforementioned question, now unspoken, ‘What does autism have to do with race?’ is a gentle, but resounding, ‘Everything.'”
– Morenike Giwa Onaiwu
Mo, rating us 5/5 stars on GoodReads, 20 August 2017:
This is such a necessary, powerful anthology. I cannot recommend it strongly enough.
There’s more authoritative info here: https://autismandrace.com/publicity/
I’ve tagged it as LGBTQIA\LGBTQIA-ish because there are quite a few pieces by queer and genderqueer writers in it. While gender and orientation aren’t central themes, there’s some great stuff there.
CW: violence, physical and emotional abuse of children, institutionalization, police violence
Andreia, rating us 5/5 stars on Amazon, 12 August 2017:
The love, the struggles, the inspiration that led the editors to put this book together is present in every article, poem and story. Well Worth the read!
Rachel Louise McNamara, rating us 4/5 stars on Amazon, 27 July 2017:
There’s so much more to the story of autistic people than the stereotypical white boy one. A necessary read.
Steph, rating us 5/5 stars on GoodReads, 22 July 2017:
A groundbreaking, essential book for everyone. Incredibly thought-provoking, emotional and informative.
Kamil Fuchs, rating us 5/5 stars on Amazon, 30 June 2017:
Until now, I haven’t yet had the chance to read such moving and yet also informative accounts from fellow autistics. Autism is still too white in the media, but not in my heart anymore.