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ASPartOfMe
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13 Jun 2021, 8:47 am

'Diary of a Young Naturalist' is a moving memoir

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“Diary of a Young Naturalist” is a remarkable book, the most moving memoir I have read in years. Now 17, Dara wrote it when he was 14, and his knowledge at such a young age amazed me — not just his understanding of the natural world, which is immense, but of literature (feeling the “peaty cold” of a bog pond reminds him of a Seamus Heaney poem), of Irish history and legends, of music and politics. His writing is clear and honest, laced with analogies from nature. (A goshawk chick “looks like an autumn forest rolled in the first snows of winter.”)

Autism is an important theme of this book, as Dara writes about his difficulties making small talk or forming friendships, and he speaks almost matter-of-factly about being constantly bullied. But it is not matter of fact; he thinks of taking his own life, he wonders if bullying has traumatized him.

The book covers one year, from early spring through the end of winter. During that time Dara moves with his family to County Down (excruciatingly difficult for a boy who needs routine), spends most of his time outside observing “the creeping, crawling, fluttering wild things,” and takes his first steps toward becoming an environmental activist.


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Professionally Identified and joined WP August 26, 2013
DSM 5: Autism Spectrum Disorder, DSM IV: Aspergers Moderate Severity.

“My autism is not a superpower. It also isn’t some kind of god-forsaken, endless fountain of suffering inflicted on my family. It’s just part of who I am as a person”. - Sara Luterman


reginaterrae
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15 Aug 2021, 7:44 pm

Ooh! Thank you for the review, I will look for it! As a middle-aged naturalist myself, and autistic, I really look forward to reading it.