Steve Silberman: What inspired you to write Be Different? John Elder Robison: When I wrote Look Me In The Eye, I never intended it to be an all-inclusive guide to autism — it was just the story of my life. But so many people have come up to me asking me to explain how I became successful. They tell me, “You said that you were going to teach yourself to fit in and you did. I want to know how to do it myself.” Then other people say things like, “I don’t understand how you could claim to be a person with autism and yet be at these loud rock and roll shows with flashing lights. My son can’t stand anything like that.” They want to understand how people with autism can be so different from one another and yet the same, and if I have some secret that will help their kid. I don’t have all the answers. But the vast majority of people who read my stuff have a personal stake in autism — whether it’s them, their husband, their boyfriend, their child, or people they work with at school. That made me realize that I have a duty. When somebody asks me “Why?” I shouldn’t just shake my head and say “I don’t know.” That’s what evolved into Be Different. It’s the result of a journey of unraveling why I do the things I do and why I feel certain ways.
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