Monday, August 9, 2021

Divergent Mind - Jenara Nerenberg

Title: Divergent Mind: Thriving in a World That Wasn't Designed for You
Author: Jenara Nerenberg
Publisher: HarperOne, 2020 (Hardcover)
Length: 244 pages
Genre: Adult; Nonfiction
Started: August 6, 2021
Finished: August 8, 2021

From the inside cover:

A paradigm-shifting study of neurodivergent women - those with ADHD, autism, synesthesia, high sensitivity, and sensory processing disorder - exploring why these traits are over-looked and how society benefits from allowing their unique strengths to flourish.

As a Harvard- and Berkeley-educated writer, entrepreneur, and devoted mother, Jenara Nerenberg was shocked to discover that her "symptoms" - only ever labeled as anxiety - were considered autistic and ADHD. 

Nerenberg's not alone. Between a flawed system that focuses on younger, male populations, and the fact that girls are conditioned from a young age to blend in, women often don't learn about their neurological differences until they are adults, if at all. As a result, potentially millions live with undiagnosed neurodivergences, obscured by anxiety and depression. Meanwhile, we all miss out on the gifts their neurodivergent minds have to offer. 

Sharing real stories from women with high sensitivity, ADHD, autism, misophonia, dyslexia, SPD, and more, Nerenberg explores how these brain variances present differently in women and describes practical changes in how we communicate, how we design our surroundings, and how we can better support divergent minds. When we allow our wide variety of brain makeups to flourish, we create a better tomorrow for us all.

As an adult neurodivergent woman, with a majority of my family members being neurodivergent (including my children), and a teacher to both neurodivergent and neurotypical children, I've been trying to seek out the most recent books on neurodivergence to recommend to parents or folks just trying to understand a new concept that many aren't familiar with yet. 

A few months ago, I read Neurotribes by Steve Silberman, but didn't post a review because it was still during the school year, we were under yet another lockdown, and I was suffering from existential dread, so reviews weren't happening. Neurotribes is considered by most in the community to be the neurodiversity Bible, especially since it's still considered a recent publication (2016). Although I did enjoy the book and it is incredibly well-researched, one criticism I had of it while reading was that it seemed to approach neurodiversity from a mainly male perspective (granted the author acknowledges this and states that neurodivergent women and girls are under-diagnosed). Thankfully, this book nicely balances the former, discussing how neurodiversity presents in AFAB (assigned female at birth) individuals. 

In Divergent Mind, the author is wonderfully concise, essentially stating that those with diagnoses such as ADHD, autism, synesthesia, SPD and more have sensitivity as the root cause. That essentially even though every neurodivergent person presents differently, it all boils down to sensory sensitivity: everything is either "too much" or our bodies need more stimulation than we're getting (I still remember "too sensitive" thrown at me often as an insult during my childhood). 

In the first section of the book, the author makes the assumption that anyone reading this book will have some base knowledge of the various diagnoses she speaks of, spending little time on them in general and moving straight into the signs that women (and AFAB people in general) with these conditions might exhibit as opposed to males (especially in regards to ADHD and autism where the stereotypical symptoms everyone looks for are primarily present in males). 

For anyone who already knows they are neurodivergent and their respective diagnoses, the second part of the book might be of more interest. There, the author outlines various coping strategies and tips to help neurodivergent women improve their overall well-being, as well as specific strategies for the home and at work. 

Throughout the book, the author reinforces that neurodivergent minds have gifts that are essential to society's ability to thrive, and that ignoring the needs of the neurodivergent means to miss out on all we have to offer, which is a message that bears frequent repetition. 

Are you a woman (or AFAB individual) who often feels different and out of place? Do you struggle inwardly despite your outward success? If so, you might be divergent; come to the dark side, we have cookies! And you should also read this book. 

Thoughts on the cover:
I like the use of shards to form the outline of the bust, it's a nice design choice. 

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