In Unforgiving, The Memoir of an Asperger Teen, Margaret Jean Adam chronicles her own struggles with growing up with Asperger’s Syndrome in the early sixties, decades before it would be officially recognized by the medical profession. One of the syndrome’s hallmark symptoms is a lack of the ability to understand the subtleties of non-verbal communication. Social cues such as body language and facial expressions are opaque to its victims, whose resultant awkward and seemingly inappropriate behavior can leave them feeling isolated and misunderstood.
Life at the totally dysfunctional Adams’ home was strict and laborious, leaving the young Margaret Jean little time to retreat into the world of reading, writing and religious thought that had become her sanctuary of survival. She had also been molested by a family friend at the age of fourteen, but acknowledged that her parents would not believe her. Life with Asperger’s is not something that anyone wants, but for Margaret Jean this experience was exacerbated by being sexually abused.
As a teen, Margaret Jean devoured Shakespeare, which led her to find dignity and recognition in acting. Role playing suited her strong persona and resonated harmoniously with the fantasies of her inner sanctum. And, from her will to succeed in a daunting world came her self-appointed directive of staying on the rocky path to becoming “the best-possible Margaret Jean.”
The memoir’s brave narrative, an inviting mix of diary excerpts and personal reflection along with some of her own very moving poetry, offers a clear view into the workings of the Asperger mind. As such, it provides drama, humor and surprise to substantiate a good novel. But it is mostly an expression of the author’s desire to help others via a generous sharing of her own experiences, a project that she manages brilliantly. Unforgiving: the Memoir of an Asperger Teen celebrates the beauty and resiliency of the human spirit.