Not Your Typical Author
We chat with Pleasant Valley author Jesse Saperstein about his new book and life with Asperger’s Syndrome
Pleasant Valley native Jesse Saperstein, 28, recently published his first book, Atypical: Life with Asperger’s in 20 1/3 Chapters (Perigee Books, $14). It honestly portrays, as he warns in his introduction, “the good, the bad and the downright weird” of living with Asperger’s Syndrome. HV chatted with Saperstein about the book and dealing with his disability.
The book is a look into the obsessions and loneliness that “atypicals,” as you call yourself, face living in a “neurotypical” world. How did it come about?
I first wrote 300 pages about hiking the Appalachian Trail to raise money for an AIDS Foundation I once worked at. After it was rejected 120 times, my editor at Penguin said she loved my writing but wanted a book about my experience with AS instead. I thought, “You want what?” I was disappointed, but her idea was incredible compared to mine.
What did you hope to accomplish?
I want to make people accept people with AS more readily, to learn that there is more to people like me than just being extremely weird.
How has that message been received so far?
People have responded very positively. A mother contacted me and said, “After reading your book, my husband was able to accept that my son has AS and that he has a future.”
You acknowledge that people with AS often cause their own problems; you write: “Maybe Asperger’s syndrome is a euphemism for being an unempathetic a****** who makes a deliberate effort to shirk societal norms.” Do you still believe that?
Absolutely not. Sometimes people use the disability as an excuse for inappropriate behavior. AS certainly doesn’t help you control inappropriate behavior. Some things about it have to be accepted, some have to be corrected. But people with AS are not jerks. Their social difficulties overshadow the contributions they can make to society.
Much of the book describes how you learn to accommodate — or willfully refuse to accommodate — your disability. Did writing it teach you anything about yourself?
I learned that if I take on a new challenge in increments, I can create something really amazing. I have the potential to do something incredible if I put time and effort into it. Also, I learned I can change the way people think and how they look at those with AS and other mild disabilities.