We're Not Broken by Eric Garcia
Changing the Autism Conversation
"I hope that parents and loved ones of autistic people take the lessons of this book to heart so that they can be effective allies."
WE'RE NOT BROKEN
With a reporter’s eye and an insider’s perspective, Eric Garcia shows what it’s like to be autistic across America. In We’re Not Broken, Garcia uses his own life as a springboard to discuss the social and policy gaps that exist in supporting those on the spectrum. From education to healthcare, he explores how autistic people wrestle with systems that were not built with them in mind.
At the same time, he shares the experiences of all types of autistic people, from those with higher support needs, to autistic people of color, to those in the LGBTQ community. In doing so, Garcia gives his community a platform to articulate their own needs, rather than having others speak for them, which has been the standard for far too long.
What I thought
I felt compelled to read this book after reading Eric's article, I'm Not Broken, published by The Atlantic.
I knew very little about autism before reading the article, aside from what I had seen portrayed in television and the media. I can only really think of the heartfelt Netflix show Atypical when I think of autism, which I believed did a pretty good job at portraying the protagonist Sam's struggle on the spectrum. That was about as far as my knowledge on the subject went, and despite it being a great show, it only really shows the struggle of one person, who I’ve come to learn through Eric, is the exact stereotype (a white male working in technology).
Garcia actually references Aytical in his the relationships section of his book, saying that the problem with these shows is that, “they perpetuate the stereotype that autistic men don’t know how to treat women with respect.”
|Sam from Atypical, courtesy of Netflix|
“There is too much mythology and not enough data, an unfortunate reality that desperately needs to be counteracted,” Eric states in his book.
We're Not Broken is a well researched, fantastically written, and compelling book. I appreciated Eric's honesty and vulnerability when sharing his own story of living in America with autism. I loved reading about his passion for music, politics, and journalism, and how he interned at The White House and climbed the ranks to work at some of the biggest publications in Washington.
He also profiles others from underserved communities outside of the typical stereotypes, highlighting and interviewing people of colour, LGBTQ+ people, women, people from low income households, and people in all lines of work.
When talking about work in particular, Garcia says, “autistic people’s value and worth should not be tied to whether they are employable. It doesn’t matter if an autistic person holds a high paying job or receives government assistance; autistic people should be viewed with the same dignity that all people deserve.”
I’m not on the spectrum, but I am a gay male, and I related to the LGBTQ section of the book. Garcia talks about how a lot of the language used to discriminate against LGBTQ people match that used to discriminate against autistic people. Eric states, “None of us are failed versions of normal. We can love and be loved as is.”
What is immediately clear from the book, and from those that Eric encounters, is just how misunderstood and mistreated autism is.
I was appalled to read about the kinds of inhumane treatments that have been used for autism, such as long term institutionalization to remove people with autism from the community, the use of a graduated electronic decelerator (GED) to administer shocks, secretin injections, and chelation therapy, which involves injecting a binding agent into the bloodstream to remove toxic chemicals. Eric mentions it in his book, and I’ve also heard in the media of parents who believe feeding their children a gluten-free diet is a cure for autism. The list of “cures” goes on, which you can read about in depth in the health chapter of the book.
“That is why it is so essential for autistic people to be included in all parts of the conversation and why the conversation itself needs to change,” Eric says.
Garcia has done a remarkable job at shedding a light on an extremely important topic, and it’s my hope that people can read this book and walk away with a new perspective and understanding of autism. I certainly learned a lot from this book.
We’re Not Broken is an essential read not only for parents, friends, doctors, teachers, and researchers, but for everyone. I highly recommend it.
Eric Garcia is a journalist based in Washington, D.C. Previously, he was an assistant editor at the Washington Post's Outlook section and an associate editor at The Hill and a correspondent for National Journal, MarketWatch and Roll Call. He has also written for the Daily Beast, the New Republic, and Salon.com. Garcia is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.