How to be Autistic by Charlotte Amelia Poe

Charlotte Amelia Poe's new essay collection shows the barriers and resistance faced by young people on the autism spectrum

Book Review by Eris Young | 25 Sep 2019
  • How to be Autistic by Charlotte Amelia Poe
Book title: How to be Autistic
Author: Charlotte Amelia Poe

In a series of short personal essays spanning from the mid-nineties to the present day, Charlotte Amelie Poe draws us a picture of growing up, undiagnosed, with autism. The picture is not a pretty one. Poe demonstrates extreme resilience as they are failed by nearly every authority figure in their young life, bullied throughout school by both peers and teachers. Poe is branded a troublemaker for reactions and coping mechanisms outside their control, and regarded with suspicion and mistrust to the point where learning was impossible.

Above all, Poe shows us that far more than anything inherent to autism itself, it is the lack of accommodation – the refusal to trust autistic people’s articulation of their experiences – that creates barriers to them living fully in allistic society. In Poe’s words, “every one of us is both high and low functioning, depending on the circumstances.”

How to be Autistic is a call to action: raw, honest, often deeply frustrating, ultimately hopeful. Poe’s impassioned call to "create something beautiful" is a rare positive message aimed directly at autistic readers who may find aspects of their own experience reflected in these pages, and hope for a future that may not always seem bright. 

Myriad Editions, out now, £8.99