English professor pens 'Weather Reports' on life with autistic son

May 04, 2008

The realities of the "autism front" are illustrated in James Wilson's frank, funny memoir centered on his son, Sam.

After what he calls "a lifetime of personal experience," James Wilson had more than enough material for Weather Reports from the Autism Front: A Father's Memoir of His Autistic Son.

Wilson didn't, however, plan the book during those years - or even take notes along the way. The professor of English simply experienced life with his son, Sam, who's now 26 and more apt than not to poke fun at his dad's latest book. And the deceiving simplicity of the story is part of the beauty of Weather Reports, a darkly funny and brutally honest memoir centered on the realities of sharing an autistic adult's world.

"I'm not organized enough to keep a journal, nor much of an anal retentive. Most days I'd just like to forget," says Wilson, whose specialized area is rhetorical and media constructions of disability. "Over the years I'd written several short magazine pieces about Sam, but it was only when I started corresponding with other adults living with the diagnosis of autism and reading their blogs that I began to truly understand Sam.

"As I say in the book, I couldn't have written the memoir when I was younger because I lacked the insight that only comes from listening to autistic people talk about the lived experience of their lives. You simply can't get this understanding by talking to medical or social work professionals or to those involved in advocacy organizations, as well-meaning as those organizations are."

The book's title reflects Sam's longtime fascination with the weather, before, as Wilson puts it, Sam "took up gangsta rap." Wilson's last book, previous to this memoir, was Embodied Rhetorics: Disability in Language and Culture, which he co-edited with his wife, Cynthia Lewiecki-Wilson, a professor at Miami University. Wilson also has essays in the two leading disability studies collections, for the humanities and the social sciences respectively: Disability Studies: Enabling the Humanities (MLA, 2002) and The Disability Studies Reader (Routledge, 2007).

University of Cincinnati

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