Strong Female Character
by Fern Brady
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Pub Date 06 Jun 2023 | Archive Date 30 Sep 2023
Rodale Inc., Harmony
Scottish comedian Fern Brady was told she couldn't be autistic because she'd had loads of boyfriends and is good at eye contact. In this frank and surreal memoir, she delivers a sharp and often hilarious portrait of neurodivergence and living unmasked.
After reading about autism in her teens, Fern Brady knew instinctively that she had it—autism explained her sensory issues, her meltdowns, her inability to pick up on social cues—and she told her doctor as much. But it took until she was thirty-four for her to get diagnosed.
Strong Female Character is about the years in between, and the unique combination of sexism and ableism that so often prevents autistic women from getting diagnosed until adulthood. Coming from a working-class Scottish Catholic family, Fern wasn’t exactly poised to receive an open-minded acceptance of her neurodivergence. With the piercing clarity and wit that has put her at the top of the British comedy scene, she now reflects on the ways her undiagnosed autism influenced her youth, from the tree that functioned as her childhood best friend to the psychiatric facility where she ended up when neither her parents nor school knew what to do with her.
In a memoir as hilarious as it is heartbreaking, Fern leaves no stone unturned while detailing her futile attempts at employment, her increasingly destructive coping mechanisms, and the meltdowns that left her mind (and apartment) in ruins. Her chaotic, nonlinear journey—from stripping to getting arrested to finding a lifeline in comedy to her breakout appearance on the Taskmaster TV show as her full, unmasked self—is both a remarkable coming-of-age tale and a dark but poignant tribute to life at the intersection of womanhood and neurodiversity.
Strong Female Character is a story of how being female can get in the way of being autistic and how being autistic gets in the way of being the 'right kind' of woman.
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 40 members
I was immediately drawn to Fern Brady in her episode of Taskmaster. Her quirks and thought processes made sense to me in ways I couldn't articulate. When I found out she is autistic it clicked, as a fellow neurodivergent woman I was seeing someone that thought like me on TV. As soon as I saw that she had written this book I knew I needed to read it. I am so glad that I did! This is a raw and honest look at Fern's life and experiences. I read it in one sitting and plan to recommend it to my friends.
Thank you NetGalley for the eARC!
I was interested in reading this book because I have ASD too. It grabbed my attention from the moment I started reading. It’s well-written and I enjoyed being inside of Fern’s head and watching how she experiences the world. The book will provide a wealth of information to those who are unfamiliar with ASD. It will also make those of us who are on the spectrum feel less alone. I applaud Fern’s bravery in writing so openly about her life.
This memoir was well-written and truly compelling. Fern's voice came through so earnestly in this book that I felt connected to her from the first page. Fern documents her life before and after getting an autistic diagnosis. She goes in depth on what seemed different for her compared to everyone else, and how that affected her life. This book is clearly the product of passion that is thought-provoking, sad at times, but still a joy to read. This is best shown in my favorite quote of the whole memoir: “My mum and teen brother came through to Edinburgh and took me out for Japanese food as there was no other way in our culture of saying, ‘Sorry you’ve gone mad again.’”
Thank you to NetGalley and Rodale Inc. for sending me an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Great book! This was my first books learning about a woman on the spectrum and what she went through. This was very eye opening and insightful.
Thank you to the publishers and netgalley for an e-arc of this book in exchange for an honest review.
I have heard of Fern Brady before as I really enjoy watching a lot of British/Scottish/Irish comedians and similar panel shows, so I was intrigued when I saw she had a memoir coming out, even more so when it was about her and her journey with autism.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book and thought Fern did an incredible job describing her thoughts and feelings and her experiences pre and post diagnosis. It was really insightful - to her, and autistic women in general. I liked that she included sources and footnotes were required.
As an autistic female as well, I resonated with a lot of Ferns feelings and the struggles she had to understand others, or more so, for others to understand us. I think this book is so important and I recommend lots of young women should read it.
STRONG FEMALE CHARACTER is an incredibly insightful read, learning how Fern Brady's life compares to before and after her diagnosis. At times it was uncomfortable to read and for that I respect how the author doesn't hold back and is utterly honest and completely transparent in her memoir. I would love to see her standup!
Thank you to Rodale, Inc and NetGalley for the digital ARC.
Like many others, Fern Brady first crossed my radar when she was featured in the show Taskmaster, where I thought she was hilarious. I jumped at the opportunity to read this book as soon as I saw it, and I am incredibly glad I did. Fern is direct and honest in ways that wildly important. Every superlative this memoir receives is well-deserved, both in terms of the writing style and the content. Even while discussing heavy, traumatic events and ideas Brady does it with a light hand and clear voice that is simultaneously enjoyable to read and also not letting the reader escape their complicity in how society treats neurodivergent people, and especially neurodivergent women. While I already knew that the symptomology of neurodivergence presents differently in women than men I didn’t realize specifically how, and Brady offers a master class in what many of those differences look like and how devastating it can be when they are ignored. Instead of continuing to fill the page with gushing superlatives, all I can say is that I highly recommend this book, even if you are not familiar with Fern Brady’s work. At the very least it can remind us that we are totally ignorant as to what’s going on in the complicated inner lives of those around us, and so we should lead with compassion and understanding instead of judgment or frustration.
I want to thank the author, the publisher Rodale Inc., Harmony, and NetGalley, who provided a complimentary eARC for review. I am leaving this review voluntarily.
𝘚𝘵𝘳𝘰𝘯𝘨 𝘍𝘦𝘮𝘢𝘭𝘦 𝘊𝘩𝘢𝘳𝘢𝘤𝘵𝘦𝘳 by Scottish comedian Fern Brady is not only a memoir, it is an exposition of autism spectrum disorder and how sexism and lack of mental health advocacy can negatively impact diagnosis, coping skills, and overall wellness. In a sharp, forthright, yet engaging tone, Brady describes her struggles from adolescence to adulthood (unclear social cues, sensorily overwhelming environments, extreme life changes, and ignorant authority figures and peers) and the ways she has tried to process and interact with the world around her (scripting, masking, stimming, and the less healthy drug abuse). She also shares difficult stories about her meltdowns and shutdowns, and about how the lack of diagnosis for most of her life, her reputation as being odd and difficult, and the resulting frustration and loneliness contributed to self-harm and suicidal ideation.
𝘚𝘵𝘳𝘰𝘯𝘨 𝘍𝘦𝘮𝘢𝘭𝘦 𝘊𝘩𝘢𝘳𝘢𝘤𝘵𝘦𝘳 is not the juicy or overtly funny story one would normally expect from a comedic memoir, however it is an extremely important and valuable one. Well-written, intelligent, honest, and vulnerable, it provides insight into the autistic mind to allistic readers as well as—hopefully—support to the neurodiverse.
Thank you to Penguin Random House for inviting me to read an early copy of this book.
There are a lot of trigger warnings in this book. I tried to catch them all, but I don’t think I did. The ones I caught were:
- suicide attempts (Chapters 2 and 7)
- self-harm (Chapters 4 and 9)
- description at a mental health ward (Chapter 4)
- domestic abuse/violence (Chapter 7)
- description of autistic shutdown (Chapter 9)
The book details how autism affects the whole person — physically, mentally, and emotionally — and how that needs to be understood better. I had never heard of Fern Brady until I was given a link to this book and I’m so glad I received it.
Brady is so open and vulnerable throughout the whole thing that it took me a little longer than normal to read it. At one point, I read five chapters in a row and then had to stop for a few days in order to wade through my emotions. She really does write this like an open book which I appreciate but also want to give something akin to an autistic-safe tea, blanket, and hugs.
As opposed to most memoirs, there are very brief mentions of what her comedic acts are like which I really enjoyed. I liked that there wasn’t a need to reference a joke in order to get her point across.
To say this book isn’t funny would be ridiculous. There were parts that I had to laugh at because it was almost too relatable and of course, her response was the appropriate one.
This is one of my favorite memoirs in how it was laid out (narratively speaking), you can hear Brady’s voice, and how important you could feel it was to her. Definitely one of my favorites of the year.
This book. Wow. So, this book here, Strong Female Character, this book, the moment I finished it, I pulled out my mental list notebook and inked this one on my top reads for the year and then did likewise for my all-time nonfiction reads. Like, really high on that one, the all-time nonfiction reads. And, not only is it one of my all-time nonfiction faves, it’s also one of the most important ones.
So few people discuss autism openly and that particular point is such a shame. The stigma needs to go bye-bye, and knowledge and understanding need some boosting. For that, I thank Fern Brady for writing this book (thank you, thank you, thank you!), and I’ll keep on crossing my fingers for others with a public platform to do so. I mean, one person can’t and shouldn’t have to do it alone. Village: necessary.
Strong Female Character is incredibly entertaining. It’s also quite heartbreaking, and also inspiring and educational. This is why writers write. To communicate. To share. To connect. Fern Brady does that page after page after page, and I could never give this book enough stars.
Thank you netgalley and Rodale Inc for this arc in exchange for an honest review.
This book took me a while to read because of its openness and its raw vulnerability. I found myself relating to a lot of Fern’s life whether it be seeing someone I love go through the pain of masking or the meltdowns. Or myself relating to her pained relationship with her mother due to her mother failing to see the issues at hand in the moment, but doing the best she could with the resources she has.
The book is a heavily researched and a beautifully articulated study on autism in general but specifically for women and others. How we as a society often let them down or misguide them. How we just need to be patient and listen to them and talk about the issues they have in the hopes that we can help others in the future. I think this book should be a required reading for many different reasons. It tackles so many heavy topics that fall under the umbrella of being undiagnosed. The harm you can do to yourself the harm others will put you through because they don’t understand you. This book will make you laugh, cry, wince out in pain for Fern. It will make you love Fern for all her honesty and humor. I will 100% be purchasing this book when it comes out. And I thank Fern for telling her story.
Males do not have a monopoly on autism spectrum! You are not alone!
This exceptional woman has made her own way while overcoming much more than the usual misogynistic hurdles to become an outstanding comedian and voice of activism. Hear her struggles in this memoir and laugh/cry with her as she slogs through the mire of psychiatrists' blindness and refusal to think outside their box. Wonderful!
I requested and received an EARC from Rodale Inc/Harmony via NetGalley. Thank you!
Absolutely loving this memoir, it truly had me laughing out loud from the first chapter. As a late-diagnosed autistic woman (early 30s), I really appreciate hearing voices such as Brady's, and I think books like this do a lot of work in generating community for autistic adults and autistic women. There is lots of in-group humor that anyone who's been through the diagnostic process or spent time on Autistic Twitter will find amusing, but Brady's story deserves to be read widely. As a US reader I also appreciate hearing from autistic women in other parts of the world (and though I received an ebook ARC from NetGalley, I know that the audiobook is read by Brady herself and think her accent is lovely to listen to.) This book will hold a special place in my heart alongside Hannah Gatsby's Ten Steps to Nanette.
I knew less than 10% into this book that it was going to be a five star read for me. I have a parallel story for every single story Fern told. Also the revelation that Hans Christian Andersen is presumed to have been autistic - and Ariel is presumed autistic as well (hello...humans are her special interest) - meant a lot to me as a life-long Ariel-obsessed human. This book comes with a number of trigger warnings and touches on a significant amount of traumas, but this is unsurprising given how long Fern lived as an undiagnosed autist. Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the free advance copy.
My favorite kind of books take me places I’ve never been and help me understand others and myself better. This wonderful book did just that. The author, Fern Brady, taught me so much about autism and the arduous process she went through to get diagnosed and treated. Brady is honest and funny as she bravely held nothing back sharing how it was to be on the spectrum as a kid and how she was treated by family, school, and peers. What an incredible person. The writing is top notch. I’m thinking back to the kids in my classes in school who struggled socially and wonder now….
This book is a gift and one I highly recommend for a book club - so much to discuss and learn and share.
Heartfelt thanks to Harmony for this excellent book.
What a phenomenal, touching, funny memoir! I hadn't previously heard of Fern Brady, but the book summary intrigued me. I'm so glad I picked this one up! Brady does an amazing job describing her life and experiences, as a female comedian diagnosed with autism as an adult. After the diagnosis, so many past experiences and reactions made sense. Brady is vulnerable and brutally honest. It kind of reminded me of Hannah Gadsby's memoir in terms of its depth and vulnerability. It was fascinating to me to consider how differently neurodivergent girls and women are understood and treated. It also made me consider how we treat others, too often not giving them the respect or kindness they're due, because they seem different or don't understand social cues or mores. I loved Fern Brady's memoir and openness.
Thank you NetGalley and the publisher for providing this ARC. All thoughts are my own.
We need more of these stories. Stories from people with differently wired brains that our world is better for, if only we would listen. Fern Brady is a Scottish comedian diagnosed with autism as an adult. In her humorously insightful memoir Fern recounts her misunderstood childhood, misdiagnosis as a teen, and finally coming into her own as a neurodivergent woman. Fern speaks to the unique challenges of diagnosing women with Autism due to their “chameleon-like” ability to mask symptoms. She explores the way she encountered sexism related to her Autism which I found to be fascinating. I’m so thankful that Fern was able to articulate the vulnerabilities of her life and bravely share her experiences of living with Autism in this world.
Read this if:
-You want a window into the mind of a neurodiverse woman
-Self-deprecating humor gets a laugh out of you
-You appreciate raw and vulnerable memoirs
Many thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for an electronic ARC in exchange for an honest review.
What a profound, hilarious, and original memoir! I never see any books told from the perspective of an autistic one, and Fern Brady does such a fantastic job of portraying the world through her eyes. One of my best reads of 2023!
I'm not even finished with this book and I wanted to write a review immediately because I can hardly put the book down! Fern's vulnerability with sharing such an emotional journey is not taken lightly. She gives readers a front row seat to her autism diagnosis and the experience of getting there. As a viewer, I felt honored to be invited into her mind and experiences.