Tuesday, March 31, 2020

"Stim: An Autistic Anthology" - Edited by Lizzie Huxley-Jones

To say that I was excited to stumble across London-based crowdfunding publisher Unbound would be an understatement. As an indie writer myself, I'm a huge fan of any project or publisher that gives voice to vital voices and, indeed, that is exactly what unfolds with Unbound.

"Stim: An Autistic Anthology" is the perfect example. Edited by Lizzie Huxley-Jones, an autistic writer/editor from London who can be found editing at indie micropublisher 3 of Cups Press, "Stim: An Autistic Anthology" features stories, essays, and art from autistic authors and artists.

In a world where about us is often without us, "Stim: An Autistic Anthology" expertly delves into the world of autism by giving the literary mic to the vibrant and diverse voices of autism themselves and comes up with what has to be one of the year's most refreshingly honest, enjoyable collections.

"Stim" was inspired by Huxley-Jones's late 20's autism diagnosis that was actually triggered by her own experiences supporting a recently diagnosed friend. Realizing that many of the books she was reading, especially fiction, were written by non-autistics she began to realize that those living with autism deserved, and even needed, to have their voices heard and their own views expressed.

With a title like "Stim," short for stimming, an oft-stigmatized trait of those living with autism that just as often leaves them isolated and on the outside, you can be sure that "Stim: An Autistic Anthology" is bold, opinionated, honest, and filled with hard truths and free-spirited self-expression.

There are so many truly wonderful essays in "Stim: An Autistic Anthology" that it would be nearly impossible to pick out a single favorite.

Rachael Lucas, the Carnegie Medal-nominated author of YA novel "The State of Grace," contributes the thoughtful, poignant "The Lost Mothers," while Helen Carmichael serves up a peaceful, meditative essay about walking in nature called "Bluebells." Ashleigh J. Mills hits an absolute home run with "Handling the Bones," a journey through autism-friendly kink that allows for setting parameters, communicating clear expectations, and relating with concrete boundaries.

Going even further into sexuality is Reese Piper, whose essay "Stripping While Autistic" explores, well, stripping while autistic. It does so with honesty, vulnerability, and a little humor. It's easily one of the collection's true highlights.

Megan Rhiannon's artistic contributions, "It Has Nothing to Do with How I Look," are incredibly well done and meaningful. Grace Au's enlightening "Hungry" reflects on visiting an ill grandfather in China, while c.f. prior's "Escape to the Country" looks at queer spaces and Waverly SM's "Thirteen Ways of Looking at [You]" closes out the collection with the perfect weaving together of thought-provoking words and emotionally resonant imagery.

While "Stim: An Autistic Anthology" is centered within the world of autistic writers and artists, the essays themselves are diverse, thoughtful, incredibly intelligent, and enjoyable to read as they embrace a wide array of subjects including, but certainly not limited to, autism and the autism experience themselves. The writers themselves are of diverse experience and selections by Nell Brown, Kerima Cevik, Kurdish author Agri Ismail, Laura James, actor/playwright Katherine Kingsford, writer/filmmaker Tristan Alice Nieto, Robert Sheperd, gemma williams, and Tjallien de Witte round out this remarkable anthology with expertise and insight that will help illuminate autism and challenge the far too easily embraced media stereotypes.

"Stim: An Autistic Anthology" is being released on April 2nd - World Autism Day - and supporting this remarkable project is a tremendous way to observe this annual day of awareness for those living with autism.

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