Book review: The Girl with the Curly Hair: Asperger's and Me

The Girl with the Curly Hair: Asperger's and Me. By Alis Rowe. Reviewed by the Salvesen Mindroom Centre team.

Girl with Curly Hair book cover

Date published: 2013

Paperback price: £13.99

Link to The Curly Hair Project

Reviewer: Salvesen Mindroom Centre Team

Reviewer expertise: Directly supporting families of children with learning difficulties including Asperger's Syndrome.

What is the book about and who is it aimed at?

‘The Girl with the Curly Hair’ by Alis Rowe is a personal account of life as a young woman with Asperger’s Syndrome. The book takes us through the author’s experiences as a child, teenager and young adult as she reflects on how her Asperger’s has impacted her, and what she has learned from her experiences. The book’s intended audience is “everyone” according to the author, however we feel it would be most appropriate for teenagers/young adults with Asperger’s, particularly young women, as well as anyone who may have a young person with Asperger’s in their life.  

A brief description of the book.

The content of the book really focuses on what life is like for Alis and serves as an introduction to “the wearing but wonderful world that is Asperger’s Syndrome”. The book is broken up into ten sections ranging from diagnosis, to life at home, life at school, social life and depression. Each section is filled with an admirable sense of candour and self-reflection, which gives the reader an unfiltered look inside the author’s mind. The illustrations within the book serve as a visual representation of Alis’ thought processes and experiences, and each section is punctuated with grey boxes with insights and suggestions for people with Asperger’s, their families and friends on the topic at hand.  

Is the content in line with best practice or research evidence?

The book sets out to convey Alis’ experiences and what she has learned from them. Due to this, there are some suggestions given within the book which might not apply to everybody and may sometimes be easier said than done. As the suggestions given are based on what Alis has found helpful herself, the book reminds us that “best practice” is different for every individual. It is worth being aware whilst reading the book that opinions can be presented as facts and suggestions can be given as instructions, but it is of course up to the reader’s discretion which suggestions and opinions they take on board.

Who would this book be helpful for?

The author states that this book is suitable for “everyone”, and though there is some content around intimate relationships and sexuality that would be too mature for younger readers, The Girl with the Curly Hair would indeed serve to educate everyone on what life is like for Alis. The book serves as a very illuminating insight into the mind of a person with Asperger’s and would be most helpful to women of a similar age who have Asperger’s or suspect that they do. This book really demonstrates how Asperger’s can impact your life and might help those struggling with their diagnosis to feel less alone, and to find practical solutions to some of the problems that they may encounter. It may also encourage those who identify with the book but are undiagnosed to seek a diagnosis and support. The book also has a large focus on teenage/young adult life in general, and there is a lot of transferable wisdom that would be of use to both Neurotypical and Asperger’s teens alike.  

Beyond being a helpful read for those with Asperger’s and teenagers more generally, this book would also be helpful to friends and family members of those with a diagnosis or suspected Asperger’s, particularly parents/carers of girls with Asperger’s. The book gives the neurotypical reader an insight into the various factors that may be affecting a person with Asperger’s at any given moment. It could also be a useful reminder to parents/carers to check in with their child around how they feel about the different things going in their life and might reassure parents that sometimes the things they are worrying about aren’t an issue for the child. An example of this is given when Alis states she has very few friends, however she is very happy with this arrangement. For parents worrying that their child may be lonely, this example suggests that just because a child isn’t meeting neurotypical norms, it doesn’t mean that they are unhappy.

What is your final, overall opinion on the book?

In summary, The Girl with the Curly Hair is an enjoyable easy-read which provides an engaging insight into the life of a woman with Asperger’s Syndrome. The illustrations and colloquial style of writing, paired with practical solutions that have worked for Alis made separate from the main body of text, creates an easily-digestible account of several complex topics. The book comes across as a completely unfiltered look into the mind of the author, which provides ample opportunity for learning more about the everyday life and interactions of a person with Asperger’s Syndrome. However, it is worth bearing in mind that the unfiltered nature of the book does mean that it may not be suitable for some readers, particularly younger readers or those who may struggle to distinguish Alis’ opinions from fact.  

Though not everybody will relate to every aspect of the detailed and complex re-telling of Alis’ life so far, the unfiltered account means that readers can pick and choose which pieces of information may be relevant and helpful to them and their specific situation. As Dr Stephen Shore infamously once said “if you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism” and though it is unlikely there is another young person with Asperger’s with experiences identical to Alis, there is certainly a lot to be learned from her story and the knowledge and insight that her experiences have provided her.