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Gone by Michael Grant

Since I missed our literature circle for our YA book, here are my thoughts on Gone by Michael Grant (as well as the rest of the Gone series).

Warning: LOTS of spoilers ahead!

The quick description of Gone: Everyone over the age of 15 suddenly disappears and a barrier appears around the town, trapping in all of the children. Soon many of the children discover that they have super powers, and not only that, but that the animals in the dome are also mutating. The book has been described as Lord of the Flies if it had been written by Stephen King.

So, right away, I’ll admit to cheating. The second I finished reading Gone I immediately looked up the full summaries of the other five books in the series. I didn’t have the patience to read through five more books in order to get the full story, I wanted to know right away.

Here is a brief summary of the Gone series: The town the series is set in is home to a nuclear power plant. Years ago, what was originally thought to be a meteorite, slammed into one of the reactors. The damage was contained and repaired and all is well… or so they think. We find out later that it wasn’t a meteorite but an alien lifeform. The alien lifeform is mutated by the uranium and becomes an evil being called The Gaiaphage (also known as The Darkness). The Darkness’ mutation is also the cause of the children’s super powers (think X-Men mutants and their random powers). But what caused the adults to disappear and the barrier around the town? Little Pete. Pete is a four-year-old autistic boy with powers stronger than all of the other children. Because he is severely autistic, he isn’t able to control the powers. The day the barrier went up and the adults disappeared was the day that Little Pete’s father brought him to work at the nuclear power plant. The Darkness triggered the alarms to go off, which caused Pete to have a breakdown. The adults in the room tried to help, but everything got louder and suddenly… the alarms turn off, the adults disappear, and Little Pete goes back to calmly playing his Gameboy. In his autistic panic, Little Pete got rid of the loud adults and kept them out. Throughout the series he uses his powers here and there, but always when he is afraid/upset. The book calls his power the power of wish. He can essentially do anything he wants. But like I said, he doesn’t have control of it, so he only uses his powers to get what he wants when he is upset.

Things go from bad to worse when the kids start to run out of food for themselves, and diapers and formula for the babies (it is pointed out that only the babies in the abandoned daycare are taken care of, the ones left alone in homes are dead/dying). Then the mutated animals begin to kill the children. On top of that they have the evil Darkness to deal with. Astrid, Pete’s sister, originally tries to protect him, but she knows he’s the cause of the barrier. She knows that if everyone is to survive, the barrier needs to come down, but the only one who can do that is Pete. So she kills him. But the barrier doesn’t come down. That’s because while Pete is dead, his spirit didn’t move on. Instead his spirit stays. This is when Pete stops being autistic. It turns out it was his body that made him autistic, but once he left his body, he is no longer autistic. He knows that he needs to destroy The Darkness (he is the only one with the power) and that he needs to take down the barrier. He can’t do that without a body, so he possesses one of the Darkness’ evil minions. Him and The Darkness battle it out and they both end up getting destroyed. The barrier comes down, all of the children lose their powers, and everything goes back to normal (or as normal as it can get).

And that’s the Gone series. It’s surprisingly dark for a MG/YA series. Dead babies, sisters murdering brothers, and all kinds of chaos.

But this class is about autism. Little Pete is an accurate portrayal of an autistic four-year-old. He has all of the classic symptoms. And I imagine that if any real-life autistic child suddenly had super powers, something like this could happen. It’s an interesting concept. What happens if someone who is neurodivergent or someone with a disability gains super powers? It’s not totally original (X-Men has done it), but it’s still a thought-provoking story.

Trisch, Analysis

Wow, this book has really been an interesting and enlightening experience! Before reading this book, I do not think I had ever even thought to pick up a Manga before, nor do I even remember seeing them prominently displayed in bookstores or libraries before. So I went into this book unsure of what to expect, and was very pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed it.

What I found most interesting with this book was the contrasting details not only in the way the Japanese are portrayed in the way they respond to an autistic child compared to what I have come to expect from the way American’s are portrayed, but also in the differences and similarities in overall culture.

The first thing that really jumped out at me was on the very first page. The parents in this Manga have just witnessed the birth of their child and now have a newborn baby. Because I am accustomed to seeing this portrayed as a very personal and emotional familial moment, I was shocked to see the first response the father had to the name of his child. They name their son Hikaru after the morning sunrise, and the father responds by saying, “Maybe he’ll move up the corporate ladder like the rising sun” (Tobe 1). This may have been intended to be a bit of a joke, but I was still shocked nonetheless that the idea was even in Hikaru’s father’s mind at that moment. As the first few pages of the book progressed, there were even more mentions of the father’s profession that further emphasized just how important this topic is in Japanese society.

I knew a little bit about the “workaholic” culture in Japan before reading this Manga, but I felt compelled to do a little more research on it after reading the first few pages of “With the Light”. I found an interesting article that I felt really demonstrates this key cultural difference between American and Japanese cultures. In this article entitled, “’Death by Overwork’, Workaholic Japanese forced to take vacation time”, the author discusses how many Japanese companies are now being forced to make their employees use their paid vacation time due to an increase in mental and physical health problems that have been breaking out due to being overworked. What I found interesting was one passage in the article that states, “Part of the reason for the Japanese reluctance to take that leave is the stigma attached. Many workers feel resentment from colleagues if they are absent from the workplace, as this increases the amount of labor the coworkers have to carry out” (RT News 1).

I felt that this attitude toward disdain for not working and the emphasis on the importance of “product” was demonstrated in the Manga throughout the way everything seemed to somehow relate back to a job or how a job held much more emphasis than emotional or mental needs. I also noticed that despite the fact that this Manga takes place in Japan, the “refrigerator mother” phenomenon is still present, as shown in the scene where Hikaru’s father snaps at his mother. He places all the blame on her, stating that “children grow up as they were raised”, and that his autism was caused by her own lack of discipline and allowing him to be babysat by a TV. Similar to the way I felt watching the refrigerator mother documentary, I felt very bad for Hikaru’s mother at this scene, as you know how hard she tries to be a good parent and how much she loves him. However, I felt that because Hikaru’s mother is portrayed in a sympathetic light in this situation despite the blame she gets from her husband, that it shows that perhaps the Japanese have been working on combating this stereotype as a culture, which was encouraging.

Citations:

“‘Death by overwork’: Workaholic Japanese to be forced to take vacation time .” RT News6 Feb. 2015, https://www.rt.com/news/229943-japan-work-holiday-compulsory/. Accessed 28 Nov. 2016.

 

Schiller, Analysis 5

First of all, I would like to say what a beautiful, thoughtful, well-written manga this is.  A lot of care and love went into this work, and it is very much reflected in the end result, which is truly a work of art.  This is one of the best, most thought-provoking manga I’ve ever read–and I’ve read a lot of manga.

I once read a quote regarding world travel that said something like, “If you’re American, and want to experience culture shock from a completely modernized society, you should visit Japan.”  I recalled this piece of advice when I was thinking about this manga and the cultural differences it shows in its treatment of autism.  To be honest, I’ve been reading manga about day-to-day Japanese life for so long, I’ve become completely accustomed to many of the little peculiarities other Americans seem to find disarming.  This manga, however, shone a light (if you’ll pardon my pun) on an unglamourous, complicated part of reality that gains very little recognition in Japan: mental illness and disability.

As we discussed in class, and as any foreigner reading this manga can immediately tell, the basic Japanese way of life is very largely rigid, conformationalist, and traditional.  There are some among the Japanese youth who make it a priority to challenge conventional standards and practices, but by and large the consensus seems to be that this is a “phase,” so to speak–once you’ve left your twenties, you’re expected to “grow out of it” and “settle down” into an “acceptable” way of life.  In Japan, difference is mostly frowned upon, or at least regarded as an unnecessary complication for those around you.  Even dying your hair–no matter how unnoticeable, flattering, or well-done the color may be–carries a stigma of immaturity and irresponsibility.

Is it any surprise, then, that in a culture that prioritizes convention, politesse, and self-sacrifice, mental illness generally goes undiscussed?  Japan’s national suicide rate ranks it at 17th in the world.  The US is 50th.  You can see the pressure that Sachiko places on herself to be a model wife at the beginning of the book, as well as the pressure that her husband, Masato, places on himself to be a good employee and provider.  The expectations that Sachiko faces are totally normal: a common compliment in Japan, in regards to things like cooking, cleaning, and laundry, is, “You’ll make a good wife.”  Similarly, the reaction many people have to Hikaru–of bemusement and bafflement–is the same reaction they might have to any “disobedient” or “ill-behaved” child.  Hikaru has difficulty getting along in Japanese society largely because all societal difficulties and differences are regarded poorly in Japan–even more than in American society, the expectation of conformity and adherence to the “unspoken” is extensive.

Works Cited: 

Hirose, Yumiko, and Hiroki Sasamori. “Current Status and Issues of Autism Education in Japan.” NISE, http://www.nise.go.jp/kenshuka/josa/kankobutsu/pub_d/d-292/d-292_14.pdf. Accessed 28 Nov. 2016.

Suicide statistics from Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_suicide_rateCalvin College openURL resolver

Sundelius, Analysis 5

“With the Light” makes me think very much of arguably the most popular shonen manga around; Naruto. This series has been around for now 14 years in anime, and the manga since 1997 where the main protagonist, Naruto Uzumaki first appeared in 1997. 20 years since his first manga appearance, the manga and anime will be ending in a few comparatively short months. The way that the mangaka, Masashi Kishimoto refused to westernize the series the way that other anime shows such as the Dragon Ball series, the Pokemon series, among others really challenges the status quo of the United States’ programming standards. Naruto has been infamous for it’s suspenseful, violent, bloody but honorable battles, not afraid to push the western countries’ moral lines in the sand. “With the Light” touches on a topic, that as we’ve noticed in class, isn’t so directly referred to in fictional literature.

“With the Light” is centered around raising a child with Autism. That is the main theme in the manga, and it is done wonderfully, in my opinion. The fact that Japanese culture is accepting enough of this, considering it has been translated to English, is extremely fascinating. Thus, through this main idea, it serves a similar purpose to the Naruto franchise. It brings up a topic that is held more-or-less hush-hush in the US, and shows the various dynamics involved in raising a child with autism through the viewing lense of a Japanese family. Culturally, this coincides with Japan’s apparent idealistic approach of no topic really being too “mainstream,” boring or provocative enough to make into manga.

Is it a big gimmick? I don’t believe so, because perhaps the emotions, styling and events in the book may not be perfect representations of otherwise neurodivergent children in any one society, it does help bring awareness to it. And it shed some positive lights on the experience too, right down to the cover. Smiling faces, light blue and white colors suggest a more holy or divine outlook on the contents inside. After all, Naruto was a bullied, outcast orphan and could be argued as being neurodivergent based on his behavior throughout the entire series. Yet, he became a pop-culture icon in Japan, the US and many other countries around the world. He isn’t directly labeled as autistic or even being any other kind of neurodivergent, thus we assume he is neurotypical and just “quirky.” Yet it is implied by various villagers, comrades and enemies alike that he is thinks different, fights different and is more fixated on his “ninja way,” or creed more so than any other person they have ever been around.

Regardless, the point remains that the kind of refreshingly blunt, approachable manga we were assigned is definitely not a “westernized” version. For example, these kinds of foreign programming or other media is often watered down heavily, removing a lot of things like blood, cursing, any kinds of sexual innuendos and even sometimes cultural signifiers such as flags, symbols or body features in order to make the media in question more “appropriate for the general population.” Naruto and “With the Light” are two examples of the cultural difference between the US and Japan, and why perhaps the US could use a little more influence from Japan from a manga and overall media censorship standpoint, so that topics like autism and neurodivergent individuals as a collective is a more approachable and understood part of our society.

Sources: http://www.latinpost.com/articles/23529/20141012/naruto-manga-comic-book-series-end-15-years-will-anime.htm

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0409591/

VanOrd, Analysis 6 — “With the Light”

Last week in class we had a pretty long introduction on this week’s reading of With the Light. Because this book is a “manga”, which many of us in the class were unfamiliar with, we required some background information to get going. I will admit by the end of the video and class discussion last week I was feeling very overwhelmed by the idea of reading this book. As I began to read it over Thanksgiving I was initially frustrated by reading from the right side of the page to the left and reading inside little circles, rectangles and squares. But, as I read on and became more used to reading in the midst of drawings I actually liked it.

This surprised me due to my lack of knowledge on manga and Japanese culture, but I really did. I definitely agree with what the professor said, and what other students have attested to in their blog posts, that this book was the most accurate portrayal of autism we’ve come across thus far. I found this manga to be very moving as it told the less-pleasant side of what autism may be like for families, especially in even less aware or accepting cultures.

Up until this book I believe we’ve only looked at autistic characters that live in either the United States or that live in England. I really enjoyed seeing how Japanese culture was shown to respond to an autistic child and the family.

For my research this week I was curious why Japanese society is portrayed less accepting than American society of people with disabilities or who are neurodivergent. My first thought was that maybe they had a lower rate of autism in their society, therefore they are less surrounded by it and less familiar with it. This turned out to be false. In fact, Japan has the highest rates of autism in children (161 out of 10,000 children) and the U.S. is the fifth highest (147 out of 10,000 children) with Denmark, Sweden and the United Kingdom having higher rates than the U.S. as well.

So, since it must not be a lack of prevalent autism in their society, I began thinking it must be their culture that highly regards obedience, respect and success that make the society as a whole seem less accepting than other cultures. The stigma of autism is hard for anyone in any culture to maneuver around. I can imagine that in Japan where control is important, a child that is seemingly out of control would be hard for the public eye to give the benefit of the doubt to.

This is not only Japan but all people everywhere: when something is new it can be scary and frustrating; then as a response people generally avoid things that scare and/or frustrate them; then the lack of understanding or willingness to learn about this new, scary thing only further propels the misconceptions people have of autism and the behaviors and differences that those with ASD possess. Even though in Japan autism is common throughout the society, basically 2 people in 125 have autism, the mere stigma of being different, uncontrolled, disobedient, disrespectful or even unpromising for success, prevents people from feeling comfortable educating themselves on the topic. This lessens awareness and spreading awareness is a huge first step in understanding.

I’m unsure how this could change in Japanese society, but as I read the book it certainly gave me hope for not only traditional Japanese families who don’t want to believe their child is neurodivergent, but also for all families in general who struggle with this new and intimidating task of figuring out autism. I appreciated the struggle between the parents, Masato and Sachiko that took place in the beginning of the story. It showed the day to day miscommunication, frustration an exhaustion that can come from learning about your autistic child. It also showed that if all members of the family are willing to learn and try hard as a family than they can overcome the hurdles that can come along with ASD.

http://www.worldatlas.com/articles/countries-with-the-highest-rates-of-autism.html

https://iancommunity.org/ssc/autism-stigma

Nguyen: With the Light

I remember when I first looked at the list of books that was required for this class and I thought, woah! We’re going to be reading a manga in this class and I was super stoked for it ever since. This manga is so beautifully done; from the pictures to how it’s written. It was definitely different to see how autism is viewed in a different culture. I decided to look into how autism is seen in Japan.There also seems to be a lot of misconceptions of what autism is in Japan. I came across a blog where Jaime Tatsubana talks about how Autistic people are treated in Japan. He states that treatment of those with Autism is poor in comparison to the U.S because of the lack of awareness in the country. Tobe shows this in the manga with how Sachiko and her husband has to explain to people what autism is when Hikaru starts crying or throws fits in class. Tatsubana said himself that he has never even heard of autism until he moved overseas to Canada. According to Tatsubana, if a Japanese citizen is treated with autism, they are given a booklet which gives the person free counselling and job search support. The booklet also enables autistic people to apply for “Living Protection” which allows those with disabilities to receive a monthly pension to cover living expenses until they can find a job.

In With the Light, it seems like Sachiko Azuma had a lot of support within the schools and daycares that she went to. I did a little research on the types of facilities and support groups that they offer in Japan. Here’s the link if you want to check it out: http://www.tokyowithkids.com/fyi/specialneeds.html

The website is divided into six sections: parent support groups, other links to different centers, evaluation/testing therapy, tutoring, distance programs, and others. Here’s one of the support sites that I looked at (Warning: it’s all in Japanese ): http://www.as-japan.jp/j/index.html

From what I can pick out from my years of learning the language, it’s a support group that’s mainly in the Tokai region in Japan. There are different options on there that shows different employment plans and childcare support. They even have different options for seminars to help adults to understand the different disorders and also seminars that help try to prevent frustration that leads to abusing your child. I guess this is surprising to me because I don’t really hear much on lots of support groups like this for autism. For school wise, it was the first time reading that there were separate schools for children with autism. Growing up, I only knew that children with disabilities were placed in the same school as everyone else.

I guess to me, out of all the books we read this semester, Sachiko had a lot of support and patience with the people that she had to work with. Yeah, she did go through difficult times with her husband and her mother-in-law but eventually they were willing to try to understand the disorder and try to do whatever they can to help Hikaru.

How are people on the Autism Spectrum treated in Japan? (July 13). Retrieved November 27, 2016, from https://www.quora.com/How-are-people-on-the-Autism-Spectrum-treated-in-Japan

Schweda, With the Light

Pre-Warning: I’ve been struggling with keeping up with names in this novel so I apologize in advance for my very generic labeling of characters.

With the Light: Raising an Autistic Child was probably the most heart-wrenching piece I’ve encountered this semester.  I think that we’ve read a lot of really interesting pieces this semester that painted autistic children as savant or incredibly gifted but skimmed over a lot of the hardships of actually raising a child with this disability.  I think this series of stories shows the raw hardships of how the stress of raising a child who is deemed different at an early age can completely change somebody’s life.  The hardest part about this novel for me was seeing how hard the mother worked and worked to build a relationship with her son, only to be struck down by her husband, her mother-in-law, her friends, and ultimately society.  The use of the word “depression” didn’t shock me when reading this novel.  I actually did some research to find out exactly how many mothers raising children with autism suffer from disease. According to the Illinois News Bureau:

“More than 30 percent of the mothers raising children with ASD reported moderate to severe depressive symptoms when their children were 9 months old. That rate compared to 21 percent of mothers raising children with other disabilities and slightly more than 16 percent of mothers with typically developing children.”

As an avid mental health awareness supporter, I found a lot of comfort when the mother in our novel began going to the classes designed to help mother’s raising children with autism. In fact, according to Autism Speaks, these classes are very real and show extremely positive rates of success in reducing stress, anxiety, and depression in mother’s raising children with ASD. The research mentioned in this article found that by reducing such factors, the mothers were able to strengthen their interactions with their children, which I think we also see in this novel.

Raising a child with autism is a selfless act and as a parent, I imagine it’s really difficult to see the payoff at times.  Like in the novel when all the mother wants is to hear her son refer to her as “mommy”.  She struggles and struggles to communicate and work with him and right when she all but forgets that that’s the goal she has, he looks at her and says her name.  The fact that the artist took two whole pages for the picture of joy the mother has says everything about that moment.  What can be seen as something small for a normal parent, has the possibility to mean the world to a parent raising a child with ASD.

In conclusion, I think that this book does a remarkable job with describing the hardships of being a parent in this situation.  The author leaves nothing out and attacks the hard and raw issues that I haven’t seen as much of from the other novels we’ve covered this semester (not to say that they aren’t there as well).  I think that telling this story as a graphic novel enhances the story because we physically and metaphorically see so many different things at play.  Between the physical reactions of some of the sub-characters and their actual remarks, this book encompasses so many different aspects of raising children with autism and I personally think that it’s incredible.

Citations:

https://news.illinois.edu/blog/view/6367/204598

https://www.autismspeaks.org/science/science-news/reducing-stress-depression-and-anxiety-mothers-kids-autism