Raising Cubby is the most recent book published by John Elder Robison. In a certain sense the book offers a parallelism between father and son as John keeps remembering episodes of his own youth in order to better understand his son Cubby. At the beginning of the book many of the stories reveal facets of John’s personality; he is intelligent, determined, and has lots of imagination. At the end of the book, it is not difficult to notice the same characteristics as defining traits in Cubby. The book also provides an evolving understanding of Cubby from an obstinate but inquisitive child trying to surmount a learning disability (probably dyslexia) to that of a man with a gentle personality. For many years, John’s abilities and future potential were questioned by others. Yet, for some reason, John’s self-esteem and confidence never waivered. It was therefore John’s plan to be supportive of Cubby in a way that had been alien to him, being a supportive parent. Although the book is plastered with interesting, and often funny anecdotes it is the drama of Cubby being persecuted by a zealous District Attorney that grabs your attention and makes your stomach churn every inch of the way. It is certainly anguish-provoking to see how innocent acts can be perverted and attacked with hostility by government employees with political gains: taking chemistry experiments from a young boy and attributing to them the political acts of a terrorist.
You could say that in end things turn out well for the Robison family as Cubby is rightfully acquitted. However, there are no winners in a story where one family was forced to feel powerless against the unrelenting and misplaced harassment of the judicial system. Their lives, the stress they suffered, and money lost in legal fees reminds us how fleeting our happiness can be. We feel relieved, however, in knowing that John’s family will survive and that better times are ahead. John is a proud father, with reason. We know that Cubby will do well.
The book itself is an easy read and from those written by John (Look me in the Eye, Be different) this is my favorite. His personal story was detailed in his first book: Look me in the Eye. However, in Raising Cubby, we are invited to see John’s vulnerable side. After all of the hardships in his life John feels deeply hurt and disturbed, not for himself, but for those close to him. It is by exposing his vulnerability that we see the softer side of John. Least to say I highly recommend the book. If you are looking for insights about life with Asperger, or life in general, the book will provide many informative moments.
I have known John for several years. He has shown a great deal of interest in some of our work with Transcraneal Magnetic Stimulation. In our conversations I have found him to be open minded and well informed in regards to the research being done in the field of autism spectrum disorders. I was therefore not surprised when he was appointed to Autism Speaks’ Scientific Advisory Board. I was disappointed that circumstances within that organization forced his resignation. He was the only person within the autism spectrum in the leadership of Autism Speaks. It is therefore remarkably frustrating that Autism Speaks placidly ignored all of John’s ideas. The resignation follows the trend of others who have found it difficult to work from within Autism Speaks (see: http://autism.about.com/b/2009/07/01/second-resignation-from-autism-speaks-reflects-concerns-over-vaccine-related-research.htm ).
I have taken the liberty of talking about some of things in John’s life that fall outside the story of his current book. However, Raising Cubby promoted a story wherein John raised his son by example. It is also by example (his need to resign from Autism Speaks) that John is teaching our community to grow up and take responsibility.