An autistic feminist author looks at women's history, in search of her 'weird sisters'.
It seemed to me that many of the moments when my autism had caused problems, or at least marked me out as different, were those moments when I had come up against some unspoken law about how a girl or a woman should be, and failed to meet it.
An autism diagnosis in midlife enabled Joanne Limburg to finally make sense of why her emotional expression, social discomfort and presentation had always marked her as an outsider.
Eager to discover other women who had been misunderstood in their time, she writes a series of wide-ranging letters to four 'weird sisters' from history, addressing topics including autistic parenting, social isolation, feminism, the movement for disability rights and the appalling punishments that have been meted out over centuries to those deemed to fall short of the norm.
This heartfelt, deeply compassionate and wholly original work humanizes women who have so often been dismissed for their differences, and will be celebrated by 'weird sisters' everywhere.
About the Author
Joanne Limburg is the author of two memoirs (The Woman Who Thought Too Much and Small Pieces), one novel (A Want of Kindness) and three collections of poetry: Feminismo, which was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection, Paraphernalia, a Poetry Book Society Recommendation, and The Autistic Alice. Her children's poetry collection, Bookside Down, was runner-up for the CLiPPA Poetry Award. She lectures at Cambridge University's Institute of Continuing Education and lives in Cambridge with her husband and son.
"Haunting, probing and astonishingly intimate, Joanne Limburg's Letters to My Weird Sisters explores the myriad ways that creative, eccentric women have been exiled to the margins of society and defined as 'other,' even at the cost of their lives. A redemptive and unforgettable journey through the shadowlands of literature and history. - Steve Silberman, author, Neurotribes
"Astute, humane and breathtakingly true, Letters to my Weird Sisters captures the intricate truth of life on the outside. Joanne Limburg's project to find mirrors of herself across history casts so much light. I adored it." —Katherine May, author of Wintering
"In these intimate and intelligent letters that carefully unpick what it means to be different - ostensibly autistic, though it becomes clear that any discriminating difference does the same damage - Joanne Limburg addresses a series of lost 'mothers'. These are women who've been historically misunderstood, slighted, shamed and cast as outsiders. With the exception of Virginia Woolf, you may not recognise her subjects and yet Adelheid Bloch, Frau V and Katharina Kepler spring back to vivid life in her hands, their sufferings a salutary lesson in the dangers of othering people. Limburg trips lightly through difficult material, through mental illness, incarceration and witch hunts, her writing shining everywhere with empathy, humanity and wit." —Marina Benjamin, author of Insomnia
"At times you want to close this book to protect its subject from your scrutiny. . . . She brings insight and a rueful wit to her story, which is interesting not only for her fellow walking wounded, but for writers and would-be writers." —Hilary Mantel, author, Wolf Hall, on The Women Who Thought Too Much
"Gripping, heart-breaking, challenging—this memoir about a family in crisis is a must-read." —Sophie Hannah, author, The Mystery of Three Quarters on Small Pieces