To Siri, with Love – How An App Changed A Boy’s World
To Siri, with Love
We are constantly told by current affairs programs and the media that technology is making us dumber. Millenials are unable to write or spell properly, and we no longer retain information because Google has it all available within seconds at the swipe and tap of a screen.
Judith Newman wrote an article back in 2014 for The New York Times called To Siri, with Love which challenged that notion and it quickly went viral. Judith shared her unusual story of being married to a much older husband who lives in a separate apartment to her with his grand pianos, and day to day life with her two teenage sons. One of which is Gus, who has autism, but whose world was made clearer and bigger with the help of an app most people have on their phones right now.
To Siri, With Love – The Book
The success of the article spurred Judith Newman to write To Siri, with Love. The book. I’m not into sugar-coated, insta-filtered versions of real life, and I knew after the first page that I wasn’t going to get this with Newman. The story sounded unique and genuine to me, and I wanted to know more and to understand what autism is. I was also intrigued by the topic as the Joaquin Phoenix movie ‘Her’ struck a chord (albeit a sad one) with me. Can man really have a relationship with machine?
What I did get was a refreshingly honest take on a family life which is privileged in some ways and hellishly tough in others. I also learned that autism is a word used so frequently that it becomes just one thing, that all people with autism are the same, but they are not. Each one is as individual as the ‘normals’ who inhabit the same world. The guilt that a parent holds for not having a ‘perfect child’ is balanced with a solid sense that Gus was always meant to be in the Newman family. He is deeply loved and sounds a beautiful (if exhausting) boy. Each of the family members has their quirks and idiosyncrasies which are shared in equal measure here, but the bond and genuine respect they have for each other makes this family work just perfectly.
How Does Siri Help Gus?
To Siri, with Love, is an honest, uplifting story about a family living with autism and how Apple’s inbuilt, intelligent personal assistant became a trusted friend to Gus and how the technology has helped him to communicate. Being a high functioning autistic person, Gus has an overwhelming need to know intricate facts all the time. Train timetables, flight schedules, when the next thunderstorm is coming, to name a few. Gus needs to know these things to keep order in his world, not knowing them, or having access to this information can confuse things and cause distress. Siri is polite, Siri is kind, Siri doesn’t have confusing tone and emotion in her voice, she can even teach Gus manners, and she doesn’t have complicated, nuanced, non-verbal communication such as hand gestures and facial expressions, which is just impossible for Gus to read and process.
Newman has a real knack for sucking you in, then piercing you in the heart. One minute you are laughing your head off at a story about a nonverbal autistic child who, at being teased, suddenly blurts out “fuck off” to his bullies, then she sends you headfirst into a tender, private conversation between herself and Gus which will have you weeping.
This is a must read for any family who has a child on the spectrum and for anyone who loves a genuine, well written human story.
4 out of 5 from me.
Buy it now at Booktopia
If you like the sound of this, you might also like Every Word Is A Bird We Teach To Sing