Education: Oxford University, Ph.D.
U.K. government policy adviser.
Send in the Idiots: Stories from the Other Side of Autism (nonfiction), Bloomsbury Publishing (New York, NY), 2006.
Contributor of articles to magazines and newspapers.
Kamran Nazeer, who in his early childhood was diagnosed as having autism, explores how he and others have coped with the condition in Send in the Idiots: Stories from the Other Side of Autism. People with autism, a neurobiological disorder, often have difficulty with conversation and other social interactions. Nazeer, who is considered high-functioning, holds a doctoral degree and works for the British government as a policy adviser. His early education, beginning in 1982, when he was four years old, was at an innovative private school for the autistic in New York City, and his book profiles four of his fellow students there.
One of them, Craig, would shout, ‘Send in the idiots!’ during class, thereby inspiring the book's title. He has grown up to be a speechwriter for politicians, and he lives independently in Washington, DC, but has trouble with social and romantic relationships. Andre is a capable computer scientist in Boston who speaks through puppets and lives with his sister, who helps manage his life. Randall works as a bicycle messenger in Chicago and writes poetry; he often rides with his eyes closed and displays a large degree of naivete, including about his lover's infidelities. Elizabeth, a pianist, suffered from depression and epilepsy, and she committed suicide in 2002; Nazeer goes to see her parents in California. He also meets with staffers from the school, now closed, to discuss developments in the treatment of autism, and relates how he became a successful adult. He seeks to rebut the perception that the autistic are necessarily ‘self-enclosed and sealed off from the world."
Several critics praised Nazeer's book as an account of the complexities of autism and the variety of ways that autistic people deal with life. In his depictions of his former schoolmates, ‘we are taken behind the clinical definition of this debilitating neurobiological condition and into the everyday struggles and joys that make up their lives,’ reported Anthony Macris in the Sydney Morning Herald. Nazeer also provides a ‘vivid explanation of the origins’ of his subjects' ‘coping mechanisms’ with a ‘tone of compassionate inquiry,’ Macris noted. Spectator reviewer Charlotte Moore thought the book ‘remarkable,’ explaining: ‘There are lots of autobiographical accounts by ‘high-functioning’ people with autism, but this is the first I've come across where an autist writes at any length about others with the condition.’ Nazeer, she continued, has used ‘his acute observation of detail,’ which she characterized as ‘an autistic sensibility,’ to produce ‘an invaluable addition to the literature of autism."
A Publishers Weekly critic deemed Send in the Idiots ‘an enlightening journey through the unreachable mind,’ and Financial Times contributor Ludovic Hunter-Tilney found it a ‘nuanced portrait’ of autistic people and ‘a triumph of sympathy.’ The sympathy of others, Macris remarked, was crucial to Nazeer and his classmates, as Nazeer writes in his book: ‘Our autism eased, in each case,… because of other people, our parents, friends, and our teachers.’ Macris added: ‘It gives us hope, to have such a simple moral for a complex story."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Nazeer, Kamran, Send in the Idiots: Stories from the Other Side of Autism, Bloomsbury Publishing (New York, NY), 2006.
Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, April 1, 2007, Natalie Higashiyama, review of Send in the Idiots, p. 421.
Financial Times, April 1, 2006, Ludovic Hunter-Tilney, review of Send in the Idiots, p. 33.
London Review of Books, May 11, 2006, ‘What Is Tom Saying to Maureen?,’ p. 3.
Publishers Weekly, February 6, 2006, review of Send in the Idiots, p. 56.
SciTech Book News, June 2006, review of Send in the Idiots.
Spectator, April 1, 2006, Charlotte Moore, ‘The Class of '82,’ p. 54.
Sydney Morning Herald, June 5, 2006, Anthony Macris, review of Send in the Idiots.
Times Educational Supplement, March 31, 2006, ‘Where Are They Now?,’ p. 17.