Writing

6 Books and Comics Exploring the Lives of Autistic Creatives

From graphic novels to illustrated memoirs, explore books that champion the voices of autistic artists and writers

In the past, autism has often been written about in purely medical terms, or by non-autistic (sometimes called allistic or neurotypical) people looking from the outside in. But more and more, autistic creatives are sharing their own stories and making waves in the creative industries.

From memoirs and essays to fiction and graphic novels, the artists below use language and imagery to express the unique sensory and social experiences that can be a part of being autistic. Here are six books for young readers and adults alike.

Scroll down to find graphic novels, guides, memoirs, and more.
Scroll down to find graphic novels, guides, memoirs, and more.

What is autism?

Autism is a lifelong developmental disability that affects around one in a hundred people, and it looks a little different for everyone.

There are various signs of autism, many of which first appear in childhood. Autistic people often process information differently from non-autistic people, for example sounds and smells may be more (or less) intense. They may find communication with other people difficult, and some autistic people are non-verbal. The level of support required depends on the unique circumstances of each person.

Every year, April 2 marks World Autism Awareness Day, and one of the most important ways society can understand autistic people better is to listen to their stories. Stories have the power to open minds, expand empathy, and above all create an avenue for expression from previously unheard voices. Without further ado, dive into these stunning and often heart-wrenching creations…

1. Invisible Differences: A Story of Asperger's, Adulting, and Living a Life in Full Color, by Julie Dachez, illustrated by Mademoiselle Caroline

Marguerite seems to find life more difficult than the people around her—she’s irritated and stressed, and struggles to communicate in her close relationships. Little does she know, she’s about to be diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome (a less common diagnosis in 2022, but one many people still use to describe themselves), and her life is about to change for the better.

This graphic novel has a friendly, black-and-white illustrative style with pops of red that highlight the intensity of Marguerite’s world.

Invisible Differences: A Story of Asperger's, Adulting, and Living a Life in Full Color.
Invisible Differences: A Story of Asperger's, Adulting, and Living a Life in Full Color.

2. Camouflage: The Hidden Lives of Autistic Women, by Sarah Bargiela, illustrated by Sophie Standing

Once you’ve got over the eye-catching cover of this collection, turn the page to discover an accessible guide to the experience of autism in women by clinical psychologist Dr. Sarah Bargiela.

In comic-style graphics, this book explores the history of autism diagnosis, the characteristics that are particularly significant for autistic women, and useful how-tos based on interviews with autistic women, ensuring their perspectives are embedded within the advice.

Camouflage: The Hidden Lives of Autistic Women.
Camouflage: The Hidden Lives of Autistic Women.

3. A Kind of Spark, by Elle McNicoll

This middle-grade novel follows Addie, an autistic girl who is appalled to discover the witch trials held hundreds of years ago in the Scottish town where she lives. While learning how witches were shunned and silenced by society, she feels similarly outcast herself. She becomes passionate about building them a memorial—and nothing will stop her fight for what’s right.

McNicoll has written several books featuring neurodivergent characters and those who perceive the world in unique ways.

A Kind of Spark.
A Kind of Spark.

4. Stim: An Autistic Anthology, edited by Lizzie Huxley-Jones

As Huxley-Jones notes in the introduction to this book, there is a saying in the community: “if you’ve met one autistic person, you’ve met one autistic person.” The diversity of autistic experience is represented in this collection of short fiction, personal essays, anecdotes, and visual art.

The eighteen contributors explore sensory experiences, relationships, and intersectionalities that intertwine with autism, each with a distinctive voice and approach—from the mystical to the political.

Stim: An Autistic Anthology.
Stim: An Autistic Anthology.

5. A Different Sort of Normal, by Abigail Balfe

For anyone who has felt left out, or been called “weirdo”—this compassionate and funny book for younger readers is like a hug in literary form. Exploring her experience growing up autistic (and not knowing it), Balfe touches on school, family, emotions, friendship, and more, all aiming to help young people navigate growing up when they don’t feel they fit in.

Every page is playfully illustrated with doodles that bring the handy facts and anecdotes to life.

A Different Sort of Normal.
A Different Sort of Normal.

6. Fingers in the Sparkle Jar, by Chris Packham

Finally, a memoir by UK-based naturalist and TV presenter, Chris Packham. Celebrities speaking out about their experiences can be key to raising awareness, and this memoir recounting Packham’s lonely childhood and special friendship with a baby kestrel opened many eyes to the experience of autism.

Ultimately a work of nature writing, this book features intensely detailed descriptions that will transport readers to rural England in the 1970s.

Fingers in the Sparkle Jar.
Fingers in the Sparkle Jar.

Across genres and media, autistic creatives are representing their experiences on the page for everyone to connect to. Do you have any other suggestions? We’d love to hear them in the comments below.

Writing stories from your unique personal experiences

A huge question to ask yourself as a creative is: if I don’t share this story, who will? If you have a story to share, check out these resources.

1. Discover an expert creative process for building visual narratives like comics and picture books with this tutorial.

2. Read four tips for aspiring authors on how to get your book published.

3. Explore these twelve online courses for creating books for children and young people.

4. Learn how to write impactful and emotive short stories based on your personal experiences, with acclaimed writer Shaun Levin.

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