Reviewed by London K
About the book:
After being diagnosed with Asperger's Disorder at age seven, Elliot becomes fascinated with the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (the Bible of American psychiatry) and its enumeration, categorization, and systematization of innate human differences. This specialized knowledge of the DSM's rules and codes comes in handy as Elliot struggles through multiple psychiatric hospitalizations for severe bipolar depression, but his dreams of being a clinical psychologist seem ever further out of reach until a kindly professor and autism scientist termed herein as Dr. Pinball takes notice of his abilities. This is a story of one young man's searching: for sanity, for stability, and for the people who understand. They may be found in unlikely places.
My review: 4/5.
On Being Insane is a compelling memoir from the unique viewpoint of an autistic person who, with his interest in mental health, weaves together his personal experiences with his knowledge of biological and psychological information. I found it to be an open, honest, and fascinating glimpse into the mind of a person with Asperger’s syndrome and bipolar disorder. Even in this vulnerable state, the author is not afraid to admit his own faults and failures in addition to his advances. I also appreciated the way the author makes connections. As Keenan himself says, he has a talent for bringing together two seemingly unrelated things and drawing parallels between them. This is especially apparent in his comparisons of his life events to biology and psychology.
I gave the book a four out of five rating because I feel the timeline is confusing. Although it may mimic the author’s uncertainty and struggles to remember certain parts of his life, when they are not depicted chronologically it’s difficult to keep track of at which points in his life events are happening. Other than that, it is written beautifully. I would recommend this book to those with an interest in mental health or to someone who loves a person on the autism spectrum. For, as Keenan claims, the best way to be helpful is to be informed.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book for free in exchange for writing a review. I was not obligated to give a positive review, and all thoughts are my own.
About the author:
Elliot Gavin Keenan is 21 years old and now a PhD student in Human Development & Psychology at UCLA. He has published a lyric essay in the literary journal Gravel. He has Asperger’s syndrome and bipolar disorder. His research, which has been funded by the Autism Science Foundation, focuses on comorbidity in autism spectrum disorder. In his spare time he enjoys strategy board games, swing sets, and using italics.