Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Animals in Translation

Animals in Translation: Using the Mysteries of Autism to Decode Animal Behavior is written by Temple Grandin (and Catherine Johnson) a woman who has autism.

Grandin's theory is that autistic persons and animals have a lot in common because they both think non-verbally. Both think, she writes, in a series of images. When I first started reading the book it kind of blew my mind because I'd never really thought that people might think in different ways. I had recently seen Iris, about writer Iris Murdoch, who loses her considerable language skills through autism. At the time, I couldn't imagine anything worse than loosing language, but I have more recently broadened my opinion.

Grandin has created a useful career in which she visits farms to make sure animals (that we eat) are being treated humanely. She has the unique ability to look at the farms and slaughterhouses from, for example, a cow's point of view, and identify areas that would be confusing or terrifying to the animals.

A couple aspects of the book I didn't like - Grandin refers to two types of people: Autistic people and "normal" people. Every "normal" grated my brain - I wish she hadn't used it that way. Also, she really beats a point into the ground. She's quite repetitive.

It's a fascinating book that taught me a lot about both animals and autistic folks. She brings up some important questions - like, how can we not just provide animals (that we'll eat, which, let's face it, is an industry that's not going anywhere) with an ok death and an ok life, but actually like, a pleasant, meaningful life.

1 comment:

Claire Hone said...

Thanks for this review, I will have to go out and read it. I have a 10 year old autistic son who I blog about, and it's always interesting to read about this condition. I have read several books by Temple Grandin, she's quite amazing if you look at her work. Yes she is repetitive, she's autistic - LOL. Usually she refers to 'normal' people as neuro-typical or NTs.