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Julianna’s Final Exam

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There were only a few autistic texts touched on during the last portion of this class.  Now this may be due to the fact that there are few autistic texts out there, or rather that there are many, just not sufficient time to go through these numerous accounts.  Of the texts read, With the Light: Raising an Autistic Child: Volume 6 by Keiko Tobe, gave the clearest and most understandable representation of autism.

Pictures worked with the narration in order to visually portray the everyday life of the autistic protagonist.  Autism is a visual and largely logical way of thinking.  Therefore, the form the narration took, manga, aided in understanding things the way the protagonist does.  The drawings in the manga volume focused on specific actions and views and concentrated attention on what the autistic protagonist saw.  For example, on pages 390 and 391, Hikaru notices his grandmother’s forehead furrows and slides his finger across them.  What this sequence of pictures does is show the reader how autistics pay less attention to words than they do to what they see.  Hikaru knows that his grandmother’s furrows are not usually so protruding.  Hikaru may know something is wrong and does this movement to try and communicate a type of comfort to his grandmother, unsuccessfully since she is unreceptive.  While there is no true way of knowing what Hikaru’s intentions are since the volume never goes into his mindset, it is something that an autistic person would pick up on, yet is hard to describe through words with the same amount of accuracy.  This is one example of viewing things the way an autistic would, which is done beautifully through pictures, yet gets lost in translation in the words of other books that try to describe something that is seen.  In this manner, In the Light has an advantage over other books since it also uses visual explanations.

In the Light also exercises use of various viewpoints.  The storyline is told by numerous persons and no one individual is the narrator.  Sachiko and Masato, Hikaru’s parents, as well as Hikaru’s grandmother take turns telling the story.  Now they are not the only storytellers, but they are the main ones.  Sachiko takes a moment during narration to comment on the equivalences between autistics and normals, “Life can be harsh.  Whether you have a child with a disability or not…there will always be hurdles that await you…” (Tobe 255). There are even instances when the writer’s voice comes out in the book.  This occurs when Tobe decides to throw in helpful advice for readers on what to do during certain situations when an autistic child is experiencing a trouble.  She does this numerous times throughout the book, both as footnotes and as full length pages of written hints, “The reverse side of artificial grass is quite painful.  Using it may prove more effective than saying “Don’t climb on that!” or “That’s dangerous!”” (Tobe 87).

A surprising strength in Tobe’s graphic novel perspective to autism is that the storyline is not complicated by Hikaru’s thoughts.  There is plenty going on in the novel so far as action and thoughts of surrounding characters.  Since Hikaru is autistic and this means that he thinks in a different manner, having his thoughts included would mix up the reader.  Since the reader is most used to the surrounding character’s thoughts, because they can relate, putting in his as well would make the storyline confusing.  If the approach was reversed and the readers only heard Hikaru’s thoughts, then it could potentially be equally as confusing.  Tobe knew that most readers would be unable to relate to Hikaru and would be unable to make sense of his thought processes, which could raise issues relating to ethics or disability in general.  Seeing Hikaru’s actions, still allows the reader to get into his head.   Since Tobe did not want to raise more issues, but rather have readers gain a sense of understanding for autistics, it was wise that she chose to maintain the outsider viewpoint throughout the entire novel.

Keiko Tobe found her strengths in discussing autism by writing it as a graphic novel.  She exercised the power of pictures, viewpoints, and outsider perspective in order to properly document what the experience of living and dealing with an autistic in day-to-day life would be like.  Since this is a middle volume to a series about autism, the reader gets to see what his junior high years are like.  However, since Tobe wrote this as a series, the reader can gain greater knowledge by learning what an autistic is like from childhood to adulthood.  This was a wise decision since it can relate people what living with autistics of all ages can be like and can broaden an understanding and acceptance of the autistic community.

Word count:  799


Tobe, Keiko. With the Light: Raising an Autistic Child. 6. Japan: Akita Publishing Co. Ltd., 2007. 390, 391, 255, 87. Print.

Written by Julianna Truslow

December 8th, 2010 at 4:46 pm