He is the older brother of Augusten Burroughs, the author of Running With Scissors. My mom and I both read the book, and in describing his own chaotic life Augusten also mentions his strange older brother.
Well, it turns out the reason he seems so strange is because Robison has Asperger’s, “an autism spectrum disorder that is characterized by significant difficulties in social interaction, along with restricted and repetitive patterns of behavior and interests,” and Look Me in the Eye is his memoir about growing up with this disorder.
However, when Robison was growing up, no one had really heard of Asperger’s so he knew he was different, but he didn’t know why. It wasn’t until Robison was in his forties that it was suggested he might have Asperger’s, and it helped him understand himself and his life a lot better.
For most of his life, though, Robison had to deal with his being different. As the title of the book alludes to, he often heard complaints that he look people in the eye when he was talking to them, but he couldn’t. He also had difficulty understanding social cues, making friends, and focusing on subjects outside his range of interests. Still, Robison excels at topics that do interest him. He has a very advanced knowledge of electrical components as well as cars. He once worked for the band Kiss, modifying their guitars to do cool tricks like lighting up and spewing smoke. He now pursues his love of cars with a car repair business.
Look Me in the Eye chronicles Robison’s difficulties fitting in, but also showcases his triumphs. As time went on, Robison taught himself to get along with people better, marrying twice and raising a son. It is so interesting to read how he didn’t let Asperger’s keep him from trying new things and accomplishing so much. Along the way, he had some amazing experiences that really are fascinating to read about.
The title of this post is a bit of a misnomer, though, and that’s because it’s only sort of a review. See, I find it difficult to really review memoirs because I feel like it’s judging someone’s life. Yes, I can say it was well written and includes some great stories, but when it comes down to it it’s just John Elder Robison’s life. If you’re interested in Asperger’s and unusual life paths, this is a memoir you will enjoy.