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How to Be Human

An Autistic Man's Guide to Life

An unforgettable, unconventional narrative that examines the many ways to be fully human, told by the first young adult with autism to attend Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar.

As a child, Jory Fleming was wracked by uncontrollable tantrums, had no tolerance for people, and couldn’t manage the outside world. Slightly more than a decade later, he was bound for England, selected to attend one of the world’s premier universities.

How to Be Human explores life amid a world constructed for neurotypical brains when yours is not. But the miracle of this book is that instead of dwelling on Jory’s limitations, those who inhabit the neurotypical world will begin to better understand their own: they will contemplate what language cannot say, how linear thinking leads to dead ends, and how nefarious emotions can be, particularly when, in Jory’s words, they are “weaponized.” Through a series of deep, personal conversations with writer Lyric Winik, Jory makes a compelling case for logical empathy based on rational thought, asks why we tolerate friends who see us as a means to an end, and explains why he believes personality is a choice. Most movingly, he discusses how, after many hardships, he maintains a deep, abiding faith: “With people, I don’t understand what goes in and what comes out, and how to relate,” he says. “But I can always reconnect with my relationship with my Creator.”

Join Jory and Lyric as they examine what it means to be human and ultimately how each of us might become a better one. Jory asks us to consider: Who has value? What is a disability? And how do we correct the imbalances we see in the world? How to Be Human shows us the ways a beautifully different mind can express the very best of our shared humanity.

Photograph © Ryan Dawkins

Jory Fleming recently completed an MPhil in environmental change and management at the University of Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar. Prior to this he completed a Bachelor of Science in geography and marine science at the University of South Carolina. Alongside his service dog Daisy, Jory is invested in children’s education and raising awareness about disabilities. He loves the ocean and hopes to keep the planet beautiful and alive for the next generation. Jory lives with several disabilities, including autism, and enjoys speaking with others about his way of seeing the world. In his spare time, Jory is an avid bird watcher, board game enthusiast, and Scottish country dancer. 

  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (June 10, 2021)
  • Length: 192 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781501180507

"This tremendous work should be savored; every clearly written chapter offers fresh insight into how to shape a life from the inchoate matter of consciousness. Fleming’s extraordinary journey will inspire any reader weighing what it means to be human in a troubled world." Kirkus Review (starred review)

“This is a beautiful and astonishing book from a beautiful and astonishing young man. It will inspire you and make you more aware of the inner life of your own mind and that of those around you.  Our world, and each of us in it, could use an autistic circuit breaker at times, and Jory’s book offers us that gift.” —Walter Isaacson, New York Times bestselling author of Steve Jobs and Leonardo da Vinci

"How to Be Human is a profound and thought-provoking work that deepens our understanding of neurodiversity. The autism revolution has been fueled by the voices of “actually autistic” people sharing their experiences and self-reflections, and now, up steps Jory Fleming, who contributes a significant narrative to this burgeoning genre. Jory’s story is set apart by his unique ability to describe his cognitive-emotional processes and relationships in a manner that illuminates the gifts and challenges of being neurodivergent. By doing so, Jory invites each of us to contemplate the uniqueness of our own minds, leading to greater compassion, respect and appreciation for those whose humanity is grounded in a different, but equally authentic reality. A timely and important contribution." —Barry M. Prizant, Ph.D., author of Uniquely Human

"Two choices drive this narrative forward— the curious honesty of Jory Fleming, so remarkably willing to share his innermost thoughts, dreams, worries and challenges,  and the honest curiosity of Lyric Winik, who nudges forward the conversation with sensitivity and respect. What emerges from How To Be Human is a conversation about one autistic mind that ends up revealing much about the universal experience of being a person." — John Donvan, New York Times bestselling co-author with Caren Zucker of In a Different Key