*With the Light: Raising an Autistic Child — Recommended

Most people, when they think of manga, think of fantasy adventures starring teenagers. With the Light: Raising an Autistic Child is perhaps the most different kind of story possible… which makes it even more powerful. It focuses on the struggles faced by a mother with a special child.

As indicated by its subtitle, With the Light is a well-researched portrayal of the challenges faced by a family when their baby boy is determined to be autistic. First, there’s the problem of knowing something is wrong with Hikaru (whose name means “light”) without knowing what it is. Diagnosis is complicated because most people are unfamiliar with autism, or worse, are misinformed, thinking it’s a kind of depression or blaming the mother for poor parenting.

With the Light cover
With the Light
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There are plenty of useful and clear pieces of information included, making the book informative and educational, but the real impact is emotional, due to the struggles the father and especially the mother go through. At one point, they risk being driven apart by the demands of their child. Both have to learn when to ask for help and how to be clear about their situation to others. Nothing is simple with an autistic child, not medical treatment or kindergarten or even keeping him inside their home.

As drawn by Keiko Tobe, Hikaru and his mother both have the large, luminous eyes many associate with manga art. For her, they reinforce her pain and confusion; for him, they make him seem vaguely inhuman. His glassy stare seems to see things the rest of us don’t perceive and shows his inability to cope with the everyday world. Great attention is paid to the details of the ordinary settings that provide challenges to Hikaru, grounding his experiences.

In over 500 pages, we see Hikaru grow from birth to a school-age child. His parents care for him, love him (even when it’s a struggle), and fight for him. It’s inspiring to see challenges overcome, heart-warming even to the point of raising tears. While some people react to him with fear and disgust, others want to learn and help however they can. For some, it takes being shown the hypocrisy of their behavior to understand why Hikaru needs special concessions.

This book is an affecting portrait of how a little consideration for others can make a life-changing difference. Even though his mother struggles with her own fears and petty jealousies — asking herself why her child can’t be like the others — her love keeps her working for the best for her baby. But that doesn’t make things easy, just rewarding. Like this book.

Find out more about the series at the publisher’s website, or read another review.

9 Comments

  1. Hernan Espinoza

    I’ve really enjoyed this book (both volumes). As a parent of a mildly autistic child, I can tell you that this story rings very true emotionally and factually. I actually learned some practical tricks from this book that have been really useful. As you said, the book does a good job keeping the main characters refreshingly human (with all of the frailties that implies). However, SOMETIMES the epiphanies in which characters come to some higher consciousness about autism or themselves are a bit much. The behavioral problems are difficult and off-putting and people who can’t get past them initially really don’t tend to ever get past them (this is not a moral judgement, human social analysis/response behaviors are deeply biological and hard to change or control). Keiko Tobe has lost some of the real frustration about otherwise nice folks who CANNOT “get it” that is a real part of the emotional landscape….especially when those nice folks are us..the parents. That said, I think the fundamental hopefulness of the story would be at risk if too much cynical reality found its way in and that would be worse. No free lunch in story-telling.

    I’m looking forward to the next volume!

  2. That’s very interesting, to know how real it is. And yes, there is some cleaning up for fiction.

  3. Thanks for this . . . my wife and I have been interested to read the book and your review piqued my interest further. I’m always curious of other people’s experience.

  4. [...] 7 of Love*Com and vols. 4 and 5 of 7SEEDS at Soliloquy in Blue. Johanna Draper Carlson recommends With the Light at Comics Worth Reading. New reviews up at Manga Life: Ysabet Reinhard MacFarlane on vol. 2 of [...]

  5. [...] news! At the NY Con today, according to MangaBlog, Yen Press (publishers of With the Light, Sundome, and the monthly anthology Yen+, among others) announced that they would be publishing [...]

  6. [...] it. He also has done diary comics about his daughter, who has autism, so we talked about the manga With the Light, which covers the same [...]

  7. [...] the series about raising an autistic child continues, this volume tackles the question of work. Hikaru’s parents worry about what he [...]

  8. [...] Yen Press comes the last volume of With the Light: Raising an Autistic Child ($11.99). The charming and challenging series is sadly concluded with Volume 8, unfinished due to the unexpected death of author Keiko Tobe. [...]

  9. [...] Suzuki discussed Keiko Tobe’s manga With the Light. This is a semi-autobiographical series about raising an autistic child. This manga helped to raise [...]

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