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Prince-Hughes, Dawn 1964-

PRINCE-HUGHES, Dawn 1964-

PERSONAL: Born 1964; daughter of Ron (a heating and air-conditioning serviceman) and Joyce (a homemaker) Prince; companion to Tara Hughes (an English professor); children: one son. Education: Earned Ph.D. (anthropology).


ADDRESSES: Offıce—Western Washington University, 516 High St., Bellingham, WA 98225-9009.


CAREER: Western Washington University, Bellingham, adjunct professor of anthropology. Previously worked as part-time researcher at Woodland Park Zoo, Seattle, WA. Has also worked as an exotic dancer.


WRITINGS:

Gorillas among Us: A Primate Ethnographer's Book of Days, University of Arizona Press (Tucson, AZ), 2001.

(Author and compiler) Aquamarine Blue 5: PersonalStories of College Students with Autism, Swallow Press/Ohio University Press (Athens, OH), 2002.

Songs of the Gorilla Nation: My Journey throughAutism, Harmony Books (New York, NY), 2004.


SIDELIGHTS: Dawn Prince-Hughes is a high-school dropout who overcame adversity to earn a Ph.D. in anthropology. When she was twenty-one years old, Prince-Hughes became fascinated by gorillas at the zoo. Observing the animals comforted her and soon inspired her to go to college. Several years later, Prince-Hughes was diagnosed with a high-functioning form of autism called Asperger's syndrome, which explained behaviors such as her inability to sustain eye contact with people, her fits of rage, and her obsessive-compulsive tendencies. Prince-Hughes has written books about both her work with gorillas and the experience of being diagnosed with autism. Her memoir, Songs of the Gorilla Nation: My Journey through Autism, was widely reviewed and praised for its insight into both the world of autism and that of gorillas.


Prince-Hughes's first book, Gorillas among Us: A Primate Ethnographer's Book of Days, documents a year's worth of observations of a captive gorilla family. A dominant figure in the book is the male gorilla Adhama, who is seen giving a raspberry to the keeper when his breakfast is skimpy and burying a dead crow. Booklist contributor Marlene Chamberlain, noting the personal connection between author and subjects, wrote that "the book has some sadness but much joy."


In Aquamarine Blue 5: Personal Stories of College Students with Autism, Prince-Hughes offers an essay about herself alng with unedited autobiographical writings by other autistic students. The fact that the contributors came from an online chat room supports Prince-Hughes's observation that many autistic people are more comfortable with the written word than with talking or face-to-face interaction. Aquamarine Blue 5 shows how the common autistic traits of high intelligence and obsessive interests can promote success at college. It also provides advice for college educators on the needs of autistic students.


In her memoir Songs of the Gorilla Nation, Prince-Hughes describes the experience of growing up wondering what was wrong with her—she was not diagnosed with Asberger's syndrome until she was an adult. Unhappy and emotionally isolated, she began drinking at an early age, dropped out of school at sixteen, and became homeless, earning money as a dancer in a strip club. Later, Prince-Hughes found relief from a desperate existence in an unexpected place: the gorilla exhibit at a Seattle zoo. She credits the gorillas with teaching her about love, acceptance, and anger, and giving her a new chance to understand people. Prince-Hughes chronicles her attempts to seek professional help after learning that a young relative with similar behaviors had been diagnosed with Asberger's and at her companion's insistence that their relationship was over if she did not get help.

Songs of the Gorilla Nation, was commended by reviewers as a moving look at autism. Booklist reviewer Nancy Bent called the account of Prince-Hughes's childhood "intensely moving" and commented that the author's "comparisons of herself with the gorillas she grew to love are fascinating." Writing in the New York Times Book Review, Natalie Angier called the book an "unsettling, lyrical, sometimes self-pitying but ultimately redemptive memoir," while a Publishers Weekly critic stated that Prince-Hughes writes with "touching eloquence and clarity."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

BOOKS

Prince-Hughes, Dawn, Songs of the Gorilla Nation:My Journey through Autism, Harmony Books (New York, NY), 2004.


PERIODICALS

Booklist, November 15, 2001, Marlene Chamberlain, review of Gorillas among Us: A Primate Ethnographer's Book of Days, p. 532; November 15, 2002, Nancy McCray, review of Aquamarine Blue 5: Personal Stories of College Students with Autism, p. 551; December 15, 2003, Nancy Bent, review of Songs of the Gorilla Nation, p. 713.

Chronicle of Higher Education, November 15, 2002, Jennifer K. Ruark, review of Aquamarine Blue 5, p. A18.

Library Journal, February 1, 2004, Corey Seeman, review of Songs of the Gorilla Nation, p. 111.

New York Times Book Review, March 21, 2004, Natalie Angier, review of Songs of the Gorilla Nation, p. 12.

People, June 14, 2004, Allison Adato and Marion Daniel, "Primal Wisdom," p. 121.

Publishers Weekly, November 24, 2003, review of Songs of the Gorilla Nation, p. 53.*

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