This book re-unleashed my inner cynic, the part of me that can only see the worst in humankind. I’d like to think we’ve evolved, so to speak, since Williams’ formative years, but I don’t know that we’ve had. We’ve gotten better at (formally) labeling the ones kids and similarly ignorant adults will undoubtedly call “retarded,” “crazy,” etc. and I think that’s about it. Perhaps I’m biased by my own upbringing, but it’s not often that someone’s parents truly puts in the effort to get to know their child. So often there’s a disconnect between child and parent, and not just because of the age or generation gap; they’re simply out of touch with one another and the parents, whose job it should be to bridge the gap, will rarely do anything to change that.
Nowadays, Williams’ teachers might’ve recognized the characteristics of autism, but that would’ve just given her parents something to pin all her problems on, and even more of a reason to ship her away somewhere else with people actually qualified to do something to help her. I think of them like the parents in Matilda, times a thousand. They never understood Donna and it’s because they never made an effort. She didn’t fit into their family picture, so they either pushed her out of it or tried to beat her into line. There are more kids these sorts of situations than I, or anyone, would care to admit.
On the flipside, though, that she managed not just to survive it all, but to thrive, and actually because of that same mistreatment, is an inspiration. I don’t know that I could’ve made it through what she did, and yet Donna Williams, who it seems actually has more difficulty coping than you or I, generally speaking, was able to. Making herself and her feelings understood was another seemingly insurmountable challenge of hers, yet in writing this book she succeeded at that as well, doing a better job of it than many, including myself.
If you want, then, to have the best and worst qualities of the human race reaffirmed, read Nobody Nowhere. It’ll make you simultaneously a cynic and a romantic.