Review: “Temple Grandin” by Sy Montgomery & Temple Grandin

Title: “Temple Grandin: How the Girl Who Loved Cows Embraced Autism and Changed the World”

Author: Sy Montgomery, Temple Grandin

Genre: MG, Non-Fiction, AWESOME

Publication Date: April 3, 2012 (Harcourt – North America)

Source: Publisher-provided review copy

Summary: When Temple Grandin was born, her parents knew that she was different. Years later she was diagnosed with autism. While Temple’s doctor recommended a hospital, her mother believed in her. Temple went to school instead.
Today, Dr. Temple Grandin is a scientist and professor of animal science at Colorado State University. Her world-changing career revolutionized the livestock industry. As an advocate for autism, Temple uses her experience as an example of the unique contributions that autistic people can make.
This compelling biography complete with Temple’s personal photos takes us inside her extraordinary mind and opens the door to a broader understanding of autism.

☆: 5/5 stars – absolutely awesome biography of one of the people I respect the most in the scientific community today!

Review:  Hi, my name is Usagi, and I’m autistic. More specifically, I have Asperger’s Syndrome, one of the “lighter” forms of the disorder on the autism spectrum. I’ve been mainstreamed (meaning never put in special education, but instead with a classroom with neurotypical (“normal”) kids my entire life. And never have I been so happy to have been raised as such. I was dubbed highly gifted in fourth grade, I did honors and AP classes (for everything but math), I went to UCSB, majored in Japanese, went to Japan and lived there while going to ICU in Tokyo, and graduated with a decent GPA in 2007.

In short, I am an autism success story – and success stories are not often talked about, which is incredibly frustrating. We are always spoken of in softer terms, couched in “tough stuff” and it’s as if we’re surrounded by eggshells upon which everyone has to walk on.

We’re tougher than that. And people like Temple Grandin, Bill Gates, and others only prove that.

That being said, I’ve found it incredibly hard to find books that deal with autism (or people with it) that actually take us seriously. Much like I have massive problems with Autism Speaks with wanting to shove everyone in Special Ed instead of mainstreaming when it’s an option (seriously, guys, it’s like trying to shove the GLBT community back in the closet), I also have problems with a lot of YA/MG books that have tried and failed to tackle the concept and issue of autism while giving respect to the individuals who have it.

I’m happy to announce that this fabulous little book does both – tackles the subject, gives the subject respect, AND is wonderfully easy to understand for the age of any person reading it. Sy Montgomery has really done Grandin a solid here, and has captured her life very eloquently. If you’re trying to find a book to introduce the issue of autism to any age group (but especially the youngest ones), I highly recommend this biography that speaks of the blossoming neurodiversity movement through Grandin’s experiences.

Grandin herself gives us a very simple introduction, getting our feet wet (as the audience) – telling us very briefly about her life and how autism affects her, as well as the goals of the biography in general. This is a very straightforward yet gentle way to ease people into the subject matter to come, and it automatically got my attention.

As for Montgomery, she has done an absolutely fantastic job with the whole book. From its style of storytelling (as if this were fiction and not fact) to the tidbits on how to help kids with autism, explaining more about the condition and an extensive bibliography at the end giving us a lot more resources for those who want to read up more on Grandin. What absolutely chilled me (and in a good way) was the way she explained how those with autism (present company included) experience the physical senses, and how sometimes those “senses (are) on fire”. I’ve never seen anyone be able to describe how sensory overload so simply and so well before, and for that I’m profoundly grateful. I too have sensory overload problems, and I’ve tried in the past to explain how it works, but failed. Now I have a great reference for people who want to know how it works.

This book balances autism education and Grandin’s life story very well – both in easy-to-digest forms. To be blunt, we need more books like this about those with autism both in all genres. By the end of the book, Montgomery builds a steady excitement that will make you want to cheer for Grandin and her accomplishments, as well as give those who know those with autism a new way at looking at them and interacting with them. The comparison with how animals think and how some of those with autism on the spectrum think was spot on, and I think it’ll definitely help neurotypical kids understand more about aneurotypical kids a bit better. It also talks a lot about animal rights, how Grandin’s work ties into them, and how important they are – never a bad thing to introduce to a young audience. While it does make some sweeping generalizations about Big Agriculture and livestock farming in general that I wasn’t really into, it’s at least something to get the conversation going.

But quite possibly my favorite part? Grandin’s final tips to kids with autism on how to manage it on their own in order to thrive. They’re great pointers, and it brought a smile on my face because I only got a fraction of that advice after getting diagnosed. Now it’s there for future generations to enjoy, and nothing makes me happier than that.

So if you’re looking for a respectful, eloquent way to introduce autism to anyone of any age, pick up “Temple Grandin”. It’s made my best of 2012 so far list, and its place there is well deserved. “Temple Grandin” is out now from Harcourt, so be sure to check it out – it’s seriously one of the best books on autism and on Grandin that I’ve read yet.


3 thoughts on “Review: “Temple Grandin” by Sy Montgomery & Temple Grandin

  1. Pingback: usagi’s challenges for 2012! | birth of a new witch.

  2. Pingback: Stacking the Shelves: Week 12 – ALA Edition Part 4! | birth of a new witch.

  3. Pingback: Stacking the Shelves: Week 12 – ALA Edition Part 4! | birth of a new witch.

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