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Reviewed by Asher Syed for Readers' Favorite
Autistic or Toxic? How I Unlocked the Mystery of My Son's "Autism" by Scarlett South is the non-fiction memoir of the author's journey as she navigates a world largely unheard of in the 1990s. South begins by sharing the first few years of Luke's life and the struggles that rapidly transitioned from strong undercurrents to a tsunami. To add to the confusion of what the root cause was, Luke is a twin, his sibling having been born with insurmountable health concerns that lead to a decision to take them off life support. The diagnosis of autism was devastating as well as the lack of resources, alongside effectively becoming a single parent. As Luke continues to grow up, other health concerns arise and the options diminish further as South and Luke are “fired” by doctors who were actually exacerbating the issue. South is undeterred and resilient, putting the needs of Luke before all else.
Scarlett South gives us an incredibly uplifting memoir in Autistic or Toxic? Memoirs about people you don't know tend to be difficult to become engrossed in. Making the connection between the author and her reader is the only way to get through and South's intelligent narrative and the authenticity of her voice practically sing on the page. This is a story about advocacy and cementing answers for Luke, but truly the most fascinating journey in this book is her own. There is a parent-teacher conference as the book hits about the 2/3 point that choked me up. South took matters into her own hands and did the hard work, reinventing menus and implementing change. The irony here is that South's changes come along more slowly than Luke's. She makes a New Year's resolution in a hotel room that acknowledges that there are things about her own bubble she needs to take care of too. This is a wonderful story that is entertaining enough to be fiction and real enough to provide happy feelings. Very highly recommended.