How many individuals with autism are represented in pop culture? How many of those are properly represented?
In today’s world, many of us learn about other cultures and experiences from television, films, music, and books. Unfortunately, many forms of representation are actually misrepresentations.
We have stereotypes like the “Black best friend” and the “gay best friend.” We have the “rich, smart Asian” and the “funny Latino.” We have minorities doomed to be tossed away when the main character needs more attention.
Misrepresentation is so commonplace that we may give up hope of finding good representation. In fact, good representation is often so difficult to find that many are not aware it exists. This is especially true for autism representation.
Seeing this lack of awareness, Random Acts supporter Remy DeMarco and their companion decided to help make good autism representation more accessible.
As part of Friends of Random Acts NYC‘s Autism Acceptance Month last April, they donated books to little free libraries around their communities. All of the books are written by authors with autism and feature characters with autism.”
So often, neurotypical people talk about people with autism and their needs without including the voices of actual people with autism in their discussions,” Remy said.
“We wanted to uplift autistic storytelling and spread the words of authors with autism to people who may not otherwise know to look for them.”
Laying the Groundwork
Remy in Monmouth County, New Jersey, and their companion in West Yorkshire, England, began the groundwork for their act by compiling a list of authors with autism. They focused on books they themselves enjoyed or that they knew were well-regarded within the autistic community.
Next, Remy and their companion selected small bookshops to buy the books from. They based their choices on the missions the shops supported.
Remy chose A Room of One’s Own in Madison, Wisconsin. The bookstore is queer-owned and shares the same goal as this act of kindness: to help diverse stories reach a wider audience.
After their respective bookshops were selected, they faced some online shopping obstacles. First, Remy’s computer broke when they were ready to place the order. Then, the books were further delayed because of shipping difficulties.
While waiting for the books to arrive, Remy and their companion noted all the little free libraries in their communities. They wanted to ensure the books could go to as many locations as possible. The more widespread the books, the more people their stories could help.
When the books finally arrived, Remy was in the middle of quarantine from COVID exposure at their job. This added yet another delay to their act of kindness.
Stories For Change
Despite the delays, Remy and their companion were excited about the positive impacts the books could provide for those who find them.
“Everyone I spoke to about this project was excited and supportive,” Remy said. “My hope is that some people with whom I discussed this project will go out and read some of these books on their own, thus spreading the reach of this project even further.”
With a book drop, we cannot predict who will find the books or who will actually read them. Although Remy finds this frustrating, they are also hopeful that the books will reach the right hands:
“A teen with autism who has never before seen themselves represented in literature. A parent whose child recently received a diagnosis of autism. A person who has little experience with individuals with autism and, through the book, learns what a rich and vibrant place the autistic community can be.”
Some of the autism-themed books that Remy donated include:
- “A Kind of Spark” by Elle McNicoll
- “The Reason I Jump” by David Mitchell
- “Diary of a Young Naturalist” by Dara McAnulty
- “Different… Not Less” by Dr. Temple Grandin
- “Letters to My Weird Sisters” by Joanne Limburg
“I believe that stories can and do change the world,” said Remy. “And I hope these books make waves.”