Wednesday, 3 February 2010
The Way Things Look to Me by Roopa Farooki
Yasmin Murphy has high performing Aspergers syndrome. She is highly intelligent, attends a school for high achievers, sees music in colour (known as synaesthesia), and remembers virtually everything that has ever happened to her, even down to what she was wearing on a random day. She has two older siblings, Lila and Asif, who both struggle with her condition but display their insecurities in very different ways. The three siblings have to rely solely on each other for family support as both their parents are dead. When we start the novel, Yas has decided she is going to be part of a documentary following her life to explore the way she views the world. Through the course of the few months of the decision being made to film, to the screening of the documentary we learn a lot about the three siblings, their childhoods and early adult lives and how Yasmin's condition has impacted on them all.
Asif and Lila dealt with Yasmin's condition, and the restrictions this placed on their family life in very different ways. Lila tries any which way to get attention, usually resulting in tantrums which got her in trouble, but ended up in the comfort she so craved, and Asif was the good boy, who always did as he was told and felt ignored because of it. In the present, it is Asif who is the 'good boy' and puts his life on hold for Yasmin, and Lilia who ran away and visits as little as possible. Through the making of the film though, all three of them come to understand how to live, and to understand and accept each other a bit more.
Yas's difficulties in communicating normally, and understanding what people mean and what is expected of her run throughout the book. At one point, Asif asks her if she has had a good day, and after running through in her mind all sorts of interesting things she has done, she finally decides on the following information as relevant.
"Yes, I had orange juice at lunchtime. They normally run out by the time I get to the canteen, but there was still some today. She feels satisfies with herself for this small achievement; he has asked, and she has replied, the perfectly ordinary tennis of conversation, a matter of returning the ball with appropriate speed, and not letting it bounce out of play"
Lila and Asif respond to Yas in very different ways. Lila is resentful, and is constantly implying there is nothing wrong with her, whereas Asif is over protective and constantly worrying about her. With good reason,as it turns out, but they do all come to an understanding at the end. The story of family interaction and development was interesting enough, but the main interest for me in this story was the blurring of the boundaries between what is classed as 'normal' and 'not normal'. Asif tries very hard to ignore the fact that even when he is away from Yas, he only chooses yellow items for breakfast(that is all she will eat), and Lila eventually creates her best artwork by taking inspiration from Yas's favourite music. They all suffered when their mother died, and they all developed their own coping strategies. This realisation that Yas is what she is, and everybody has their idiosyncrasies was what drew me to this book most.