Cover Image: Camouflage

Camouflage

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Member Reviews

This is a great introduction to the inner life of women with autism. So much focus is on children with autism that we often forget the way if affects adults. The proliferation of own voices stories from adults with autism is great and this book is a touching combination of interview and statistics. Should be required reading for everyone to help chip away at stigmas and misunderstandings many people have about autism.
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'Camouflage: The Hidden Lives of Autistic Women' by Dr. Sarah Bargiela with art by Sophie Standing is a book about how autistic women cope.

The book features some interviews with 3 autistic women.  The hardest part, it seems, is just coming to a diagnosis.  The tools for diagnosing seem to be skewed to men and not women, and women are not believed by their own families.  Relationships and dating are difficult because autistic women sometimes feel they have to mimic the behavior of others or act overly permissive.

I like the presentation of this book.  The illustrations make it a quick read and help to give the book a nice visual sense.  I don't think I ever thought about this study this way, so the information was really interesting.

I received a review copy of this ebook from Jessica Kingsley Publishers and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  Thank you for allowing me to review this ebook.
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As a psychology student who wrote a 20 page research paper on autism I have to say this is an excellent book. The illustrations are beautiful and it's good representation on the subject matter. I give it 4/5 stars only because I wish it was longer
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I read this in one sitting; it's an excellent exploration of the ways autism affects women, in ways they have often been left out of the larger research previously. It gives voice to these experiences and is a really useful resource for people whose autism may have been overlooked due to their gender and it not presenting in the ways most visible. I highly recommend it!
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Camouflage: The Hidden Lives of Autistic Women
Written by Dr. Sarah Bargiela
Illustrated by Sophie Standing
Jessica Kingsley Publishers

Surprise! Women who believe they might be autistic report that when they seek help, advice, diagnosis, they are often not taken seriously and are given alternative suggestions for what they are noticing about themselves. That’s just one of the pieces of information that should be a surprise in Camouflage: The Hidden Lives of Autistic Women but sadly is not.

There are a lot of people with autism out there nowadays — 1 in 59 children is diagnosed. The popular perception and the information that results because it focuses on males, with the statistic that 1 in 37 will be diagnosed. In contrast, 1 in 151 females will be diagnosed, so that could explain the information skew toward males.

However, Bargiela suggests there may be other issues, including differences in the manifestations autism between men and women that aren’t taken into account and lead to misdiagnosis, as well as differences in the way women cope with the symptoms.

Now you may wonder how such a dry subject — interesting, definitely, but dry — can translate into a graphic novel form in a manner that makes it worth picking up even if autism is not something that either personally affects your life, or at least is an area of interest already.

Easy. It’s the personal stories of women with autism and the insight they provide.



Like any comic that portrays people’s actual lives, Bargiela has sought out real women to talk about their experience with autism, specifically the obstructions to diagnosis and what getting what meant to them, especially in the context of the ways they learned to cope before ever getting confirmation.

The stories are drawn together through certain consistent aspects of an autistic woman’s experience, like family dynamics, school experience, and the women telling their versions of these. These individual stories are united by one important conclusion — how exhausting it is for people with autism to function in what many of us consider normal situations. In my experience that’s one of the hardest things for those of us on the outside to truly understand, as we are fooled that if a person with autism seems to be functioning in a situation, then they are handling it as we would, and so if they register the stress they are feeling, sometimes the non-autistic person finds it off-putting. This seems consistent with all the testimonies in this book, and it’s something that friends and loved ones of people with autism need to hear and understand — just negotiating moments with YOU might be exhausting for this person you love.

It also goes into detail the difficulties they had as girls in relationships, trying to understand what was expected of them as a “girlfriend” and how to navigate intimate feelings when you can’t read other people very well and don’t have a sense in social terms what such a relationship even means. This seems to be an area that any person with autism should be consciously prepared for, but girls in particular, as what we see as the natural dynamic between teens often sets-up girls with autism as victims of abuse, and the book gives solid information in regard to these issues, including the pressure to even have a romantic relationship.



The book finishes with an examination of the conflict between interests as a way of bonding and making friends and the autistic prevalence for obsessive interests that can obstruct the effort to make friends. It’s not a how-to make friends section, but rather a reassurance of the idea that interest may have more to do with identity for a person with autism than relationships, and that’s okay — the idea might be to realign expectations and create comfort with what is natural rather than demand replication of the “accepted” dynamics of friendship.

Sophie Standing’s artwork is a big strong point in the book since she has to walk a delicate balance in presenting the information as friendly and engaging, and giving it personality while still maintaining a level of universality. She also has to move between informational parts and depictions of personal lives that give you something to cling onto emotionally. She does this perfectly, employing a playful flat illustrative style that’s graphically sophisticated but also suited to depicting emotional scenes well.

This is a really lovely book that manages to speak to several audiences at once in an accepting way. It covers the girl’s perceptions of gender differences in regard to autism, and also how they perceive gender difference in those who don’t have autism but also offers research in that area. And regardless, I think this is a great book for boys and men to read as well, particularly those on the autism spectrum. It may help them find greater understanding, and perhaps they might see something of themselves in either the behavior or the personal stories.

If you know a girl or woman with autism, or who are exploring the possibility that they have autism, or maybe even a parent with a child in one of those situations, I highly recommend this book. The way the information and research are gendered means that a gift like this could make a significant difference in someone’s life.
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Received via NetGalley for review.

Beautifully illustrated and concise, this small graphic novel informs (and never bores!) you of the different ways autism presents in women and men. The differences are so striking that it makes sense women are less often diagnosed and treated. 

Definitely a great resources for readers of any age on a little-known subject.
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4.5.................................................................................................................
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Despite its short length, Camouflage manages to incorporate quite a large chunk of information. What seperates it from articles or blog posts though, are the illustrations. They help engage the reader as well as make the information just feel more accessible. 

The book follows several autistic women to find out what specific challenges they face, and it discusses the differences between men and women with autism. I felt it lacked a broader discussion about the entire spectrum. I am also unsure what the intended audience for this book was. It is neither a completely general introduction (mostly due to the focus on individual women and the specific issues they come across), nor an in-depth discussion about autism.

It is great to see a book focussing on adults rather than children with autism, as people often seem to forget adults with autism exist. I also think it shows an excellent use of the graphic novel format to explain difficult or scientific topics.
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Camouflage isn't just any graphic novel. It is a showcase of results from a qualitative (interview-based) psychological study on women's life with autism. As an aspiring psychological researcher myself, I was very impressed and intrigued by this way to illustrate and communicate results. The graphic novel was well crafted with beutiful illustrations and the participants were really given a strong voice to communicate their feelings.

However, the scientific information such as the background literature etc was presented too formally and it was quite clear that this book was done by an academic. There is nothing wrong in that, but this style that I recognise from my academic side of life felt very out of place in this graphic novel. This gave me a huge revelation; I never realised how separate I keep my academic studies from my book blogger & goodreads life. When I came across something familiar from my academic background, I was startled because I happened to be in my book blogger stage.

Yep so I totally went on a tangent there, anyway. The casual bits of the graphic novel were a lot more engaging than the formal points. I feel like the formality could have been stripped down a little to keep the format consistent.

Also I found the graphic novel to be a bit too short. I understand that there is only so much thematic material from qualitative studies, and these themes were well explored, but I was craving a bit more. Maybe another study could have been added in to make the graphic novel reach 100 pages of full packed information? Now it felt a bit too much like a research poster. Something that I have seen many times previously, but only ever confined inside the walls of a university. Again, I applaud the author for making this available, but I wish it had felt a bit more fleshed out.

As a whole, Camouflage is cute, enjoyable, positive and excellently crafted. I have a strong dislike for those who discount this graphic novel for only dealing with women: did you read it? The graphic novel focuses on women because that is the much less explored part of autism.
I enjoyed it and it worked well, giving a voice to these autistic women in explaining how they see their autism and cope with it.
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I loved this!  This graphic novel was a beautifully done book focusing on autism in women and their lives.  For me, the art and colors in this text really amp the power and beauty of this book up and make it enlightening to read.
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Thanks to the publisher for sharing this one. It's an eye opener, and I think it will help a lot of people. My full review appears on Weekend Notes.
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‘Camouflage: the hidden lives of autistic women’ is a great introduction into autistic disorder spectrum in women. The book is well-researched, informative and beautifully-illustrated. We get a brief overview of what autism is, the prevalence of low and high-functioning autism in men and women (it is also explained  why terms 'low and high- functioning autism' may be unhelpful) and the reasons why fewer women are diagnosed with autism. The book illustrates in a very accessible manner what exactly restricted social communication and interaction, repetitive behaviours, sensory sensitivities and eccentric, special interests are. I loved the way differences between autistic men and women are presented through infographics, case studies and stories. I could almost feel the exhaustion brought by the perceived need for social mimicry and camouflage- ‘It’s very draining trying to figure out everything all the time’. The most shocking part for me was the one dealing with vulnerability in intimate relationships and need to assert oneself so as not to become a victim of abuse.
I will definitely pass the information contained in this remarkable book dedicated to challenging common misconceptions about autistic women in order to promote better understanding of their experiences.
Thank you to NetGalley and Jessica Kingsley Publishers for the ARC provided in exchange for an honest opinion.
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I thought this would be an interesting look at how autism affects women, but unfortunately, the book simply promotes and reinforces what appears to be a flawed premise, while simultaneously ignoring the severe end of the autism spectrum, making incorrect assumptions, and disparaging people (especially women) who don't have autism.

The biggest problem with this book is that it posits that females are underdiagnosed with autism because they don't meet the male-based criteria. Here's the thing: There is no medical test for autism. There's no blood test or scan that you can take that will tell you, definitively, if you have the condition. So a diagnosis is based solely on observed or reported behaviour. This book talks about how women don't tick as many of the symptom boxes as men. Logically, it would follow that fewer women would be diagnosed. But this book argues that point to a ridiculous degree. According to this, if you don't meet the established criteria for autism, then the criteria is wrong.

Some of the assertions are just plain silly. There's a section where the women talk about running into trouble with abusive partners or narcissistic behaviour, as if that's something that can only happen to women with autism. Domestic violence wouldn't be such a huge problem if only autistic people were vulnerable to it! Another part of the book has one of the women implying that men are better because they'll come right out and be rude, while neurotypical women "never really say what they mean". Well, I'll come right out and say it: that is rude, disrespectful, and inaccurate. (There goes that generalization about neurotypical women...)

The little bit of background on the discovery of autism didn't really impress me. I've read about it previously. The casual mentions of Hans Asperger were a little bit disturbing, though; he was a eugenicist who collaborated with the Nazis and ended up sending mentally ill and disabled children to their deaths. None of that is mentioned at all.

The erasure of the lower end of the spectrum is perhaps the most disturbing part of the book (but one I'm not surprised by). Much is made of narrow special interests, but the women featured in the book are high-functioning enough to have age-appropriate obsessions. Nowhere is there any mention of the girls and women who are still obsessed with Elmo or PAW Patrol after puberty. Some more extreme symptoms (such as meltdowns) are mentioned, but only in passing. There's absolutely nothing about co-morbid conditions that go along with many autism diagnoses (seizures, bowel disorders, immune dysfunction), likely because that would show that there is a lower end of the spectrum. (The book states that the terms "high functioning" and "low functioning" are considered by some in the autism community to be unhelpful, claiming that it has to do with IQ. I don't think I've seen it referred to in such a way; the functioning levels seem to be more to do with things like how verbal a person is and the ability to perform basic self-care... not an IQ score.)

The layout of the book is sort of like an illustrated picture book. It's not a graphic novel. There's no continuous narrative. The pictures aren't really my thing; they're too chunky and simple, more like something you'd see in an infographic.

Overall, I wasn't impressed. I expected there to be more from the autistic women themselves, other than a few quotes. I didn't really learn anything I didn't already know, and I just got annoyed by the continued insistence that the criteria for the condition was wrong. I recently read Regression by Twilah Hiari, and it's much better at offering insight into the workings of an autistic woman's mind.
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This is a really fascinating look at autism and how it affects those of the female gender differently and this may be a cause of autism being perceived to be more prevalent in males. The book looks at the origins of the term autism and provides context as to how it came to be and what the traditional markers of it are and how these differ in female and how this can allow them to camouflage themselves and be either misdiagnosed or not diagnosed at all. It also includes anecdotal evidence to support this from women who themselves have autism and how they were able to camouflage themselves or were dismissed when they suggested to other they may have autism.
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"Camouflage" by Sarah Bargiela is a lovely illustrated book about autism, more concretely female autism. It's a really short read, with no blocks of text, the author preferring instead to almost offer us small bits of trivia that that end up painting a very large picture. Normally when we think about the word "autism", the first image in our heads is of the anti-social genius looking at the blackboard filled with mathematical formulas and this book shows us why our first thought is not normally of a woman going about her daily life like every neurotypical. I found it really useful and well researched, a quick read for everyone that wants to learn about autism without having to endeavor in heavy, clinical volumes. I look forward to reading more of Dr. Bargiela’s work.
Thank you to Net Galley and Jessica Kingsley Publishers for this ARC.
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Camouflage by Sarah Bargiela is a free NetGalley e-comicbook that I read in late February.

Exploring concepts through the experiences of 4 autistic women in comic book form, like the belief that girls and women are less likely to be diagnosed due to their brains supposedly wired for empathy and being able to echo social cues more effectively; consistency in habit and routine; seeking/avoiding sensory activities and having keen interests; internalizing emotions and masking one’s identity in order to appear normal; developing assertiveness during friendships and relationships; and finding community within their diagnosis. The palette offered heathered/spotty pastel hues with focal points of coral, hunter green and black, and, altogether, it was too short and I wanted more!
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I love reading in order to discover more about the world around me and also to discover more about myself. I often find myself questioning how I would react if I were to experience fictional situations in novels or genuine ones in memoirs and biographies. Occasionally, I don't get the chance to ponder though. A book will figuratively smack me between the eyes and I'll just know it's talking about me. The last book to do that was Susan Cain's Quiet. Now Camouflage has had exactly the same effect. This is me!



I chose Camouflage from NetGalley because when I saw it was a graphic novel about autistic women I realised that I couldn't actually think of a single one. I recall several novels with male characters on the autism spectrum, but women? It turns out that, much like heart attacks I think, women generally experience autism in a more low-key way to men and so our symptoms are often misunderstood and misdiagnosed. In this short book women briefly explain how they came to realise that they were autistic, how the condition has been a hindrance or sometimes a benefit, and how they have learned to mask their symptoms especially in social situations. So much of this is very Very familiar!



I would have loved for Camouflage to have been a longer and more in depth book. However that isn't its intended purpose so I will need to look for further reading on the subject. Here, instead, we get a stunningly illustrated introduction to female autism. Sophie Standing's drawings raise the book to the standard of a graphic novel, although it is definitely nonfiction, and I loved her almost vintage style. This is a beautiful little book and one that I am particularly grateful to have encountered.
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A good introduction about a subject little used in literature. The only thing that needed was, in my opinion, more information about the Asperger syndrome.
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I found this wonderfully insightful, as someone without autism. The art style is gorgeous, and the information is engaging. I'd love it even more if it were longer.
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A quick and informative read on women with Autism. This is a great starting point for understanding more on the subject, which is hardly ever spoken about. We often see Autism as being male, however, I hope there are more books like this in the future. I have to note that the illustration was also absolutely beautiful, and adds to the book itself. This is definitely something that I want to look into further, particularly after seeing myself in some of the stories. Thank you to the author, illustrator, publisher and Netgalley for the opportunity in exchange for an honest review.
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