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Neurodivergence in Audiobooks

By Cameron Phillips, Kathryn Alley and Rose Cook


April is Autism Awareness Month, so here are some audiobooks with excellent representation of neurodivergence through their characters or themes.

 

Cameron’s Pick: Dirty Laundry: Why adults with ADHD are so ashamed and what we can do to help them, written and narrated by Richard and Roxanne Pink


Personally, I wouldn’t say I was ignorant to the challenges that neurodivergent people face in their daily lives, but I think it’s very difficult to really understand something that is so inherently internal to others. This said, I have grown up with a little brother who was diagnosed with ADHD from an early age. Like many, I used to dismiss ADHD, being fixated only on the hyperactive part of the condition, with my little brother who would struggle to keep still, or focus.


It was only when he went to university that I started to notice how it affected him and his work. When he opened up to me about his struggles, it struck me just how little I understood him, and his brain.


Richard and Roxanne Park exert their warmth and humour all throughout Dirty Laundry, but simultaneously treat the subject matter at hand with the seriousness it requires. The husband and wife combination really adds to how personable the discussions are on various topics, echoed with the often informal way they narrate the work. I found it a brilliant listen, and a more personal look at living with and expressing yourself to the world and others whilst having ADHD.


Rose’s Pick: The Cassandra Complex by Holly Smale, narrated by Kristin Atherton


For some people, receiving confirmation that they are neurodivergent does not come until later in life, often in adulthood. Upon receiving this diagnosis, many people may feel that things they did not understand about themselves begin to make sense or feel relieved to find out why they think or feel the way they do.


This is Cassandra’s experience. Cassandra likes order and feels comfortable when things are predictable. She has an excellent memory, but often says the wrong thing. She is a creature of habit. But one day, she gets dumped and fired within a few hours and it feels like nothing can go right. 


Holly Smale brings Cassandra to life through carefully crafting her inner narrative, as Cassandra navigates the joy and challenge of her life as a neurodivergent woman. When Cassandra discovers she can go back in time and has the power to change things, we travel with Cassandra through time to try and fix her life, leading to a funny and emotional conclusion.


Kristin Atherton takes Smale’s beautiful writing and excellently embodies Cassandra’s character through her poignant narration. She takes on each character and accent with ease, creating an at times funny, and often touching, listening experience. The Cassandra Complex draws us into Cassie’s world, through an amusing, emotional and insightful listening experience.


Kathryn’s Pick: Plums for Months written by Zaji Cox, narrated by Stephanie Weeks


Often it is the characters that bring a fresh perspective to life and the human experience that are of the greatest benefit to us as readers. By both dismantling stereotypes and encouraging empathy for neurodivergent individuals, we can truly foster inclusivity in the literary world. 


Plums for Months, offered a beautiful celebration of the unique strengths and captivating imaginations of people experiencing neurodivergent conditions. Stephanie Weeks offers brilliant narration of Zaji Cox’s short memoir, unveiling a narrative of understanding and acceptance. Plums for Months details Zaji’s childhood growing up in a low-income, hundred-year-old house on the outskirts of Portland. The writing style is particularly impactful, with each new short story diving deeper than the next. Zaji reflects on both the challenges of growing up different as well as the inherent beauty and wonder that her childhood possessed. Weeks' narration is striking and meshes with Zaji's memoir in such a unique way that will leave you in awe of the strengths of neurodivergent minds. 


I found Plums for Months to be incredibly powerful and moving, and highly recommend the listen to anyone fond of memoirs and inspiring new perspectives on our world. 


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