SOMEBODY SOMEWHERE by Donna Williams (Times Books: $23; 288 pp.). Donna Williams became a celebrity of sorts a few years ago when she published "Nobody Nowhere," the gut-wrenching account of her life as an autistic. She continues the journey in this volume, and again shows herself to be a woman of great bravery and intelligence: once, when asked to explain how she differed from everybody else, Williams replied, "I'm a culture looking for a place to happen." So she is--and it's a constant battle, for although in "Somebody Somewhere" Williams is increasingly able to control her autism, she often can't tell where her one-woman culture begins and her life-long affliction ends. When she writes of an airplane flight, "I wondered if I'd be there when Tim met me," she means it; relationships were often so difficult for Williams that she retreated into an unresponsive "dead" self or invented affectless characters capable of operating in what she calls "the world," leaving her true self alone inside. In "Somebody Somewhere" Williams describes her ongoing self-education: earning a teaching degree, exploring her identity through individual therapy and above all learning to be human--a simultaneously exciting, terrifying and painful experience, for she rarely perceives herself as anything other than a stranger in a strange land. As Williams evocatively puts it, "I learned to use the words know and feel like a blind person uses the words see and a deaf person uses the word hear ." This volume doesn't hold the same fascination as "Nobody Nowhere," but that's to be applauded: its apparent "normality" is evidence of the great strides Williams has made in conquering her malady, and will give much comfort and hope to fellow victims.
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