Bluebird is publishing the "heart-rending and uplifting" memoir of literary agent and marketeer Julia Kingsford and her sister Katherine, exploring autism and sisterhood.
Entitled Asperger’s and Asparagus, it centres on the life and experience of Katherine, who is autistic but who wasn’t diagnosed till she was 32, and her unique relationship with her younger sister, Julia, as they have faced the world and her condition together.
Publisher Carole Tonkinson, who acquired world rights, described it a "moving, important and beautifully told" memoir that, not only will inspire the general reader, but, will help people identify neurodiversity in themselves and their loved ones.
Bluebird's release for the book discloses Katherine was "let down" and "palmed off" by health services early in life. Despite first being referred for psychiatric evaluation at the age of seven, the medical establishment she saw left her undiagnosed because, like many girls on the autistic spectrum, she didn’t present the typical characteristics that boys do.
Katherine had a complete breakdown in her twenties, following "a life where she had to constantly act to pass as ‘normal'" and eventually finding herself "unable to cope with the challenges of her life", according to the publisher. "It was due to Julia’s determination not to see her sister simply live out her days on antidepressants, palmed off by the health service that took no interest in the cause of her problems, that Katherine was finally diagnosed. From there she could begin the long journey, with Julia’s help, to understanding herself and how she fits into the world."
The book is pitched as both an inspiring "emotional journey" and "a major insight to the world of an autistic woman", providing a window into a life lived on the spectrum from someone who has only latterly understood how unusual her world view is, as well as Julia's experience of growing up with an older sister "far more special than anyone realises".
Its title, Asperger’s and Asparagus, relates to an asparagus farm in rural Somerset near to where Katherine lives and where, thanks to Julia, she works each season, using her "exceptional pattern-cognition skills as a superhuman asparagus sorter". It’s through this that they both realised that far from being something that’s wrong with her, Katherine’s autism gives her "super-powers" – she only has to learn how to master them.
Katherine Kingsford said: “There is a fairy tale about a little girl who has special powers but she has to keep them secret because they make her different and people are afraid of difference. Eventually she can’t control it any more and it explodes out of her and she has to run away and hide, alone. And then her brave little sister climbs up the mountain to find her and helps her understand herself and the world to understand her. That’s the plot of Disney’s 'Frozen' and that’s what happened with my sister and me: she climbed the mountain to find me and bring me back into the world.”
Julia Kingsford said: “All I’ve ever wanted is for Katherine to be able to live a life with as much opportunity as I have and the more I’ve learnt about autism the more I’m sad that our story isn’t actually unique – far too many girls and women wait too long for diagnosis or remain undiagnosed their whole lives – and so what I want more than anything is for this book to help other Katherines and Julias whilst showing everyone how incredible the neurodiverse world can be.”
Asperger’s and Asparagus will be a lead title for Bluebird, publishing May 2019.