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Launchpad: I Overcame My Autism ... by Sarah Kurchak

"A treat to read." —Hannah Gadsby

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This spring we've made it our mission (even more than usual) to celebrate new releases in the wake of cancelled launch parties, book festivals, and reading series. With 49th Shelf Launchpad, we're holding virtual launch parties here on our platform complete with witty banter, great insight, and short and snappy readings to give you a taste of the books on offer. You can request these books from your local library, get them as e-books or audio books, order them from your local indie bookseller if they're delivering, buy them direct from the publisher or from online retailers.

Today we're launching Sarah Kurchak's memoir I Overcame My Autism and All I Got Was This Lousy Anxiety Disorder, which no less than Hannah Gadsby calls "a treat to read."


Book Cover I Overcame My Autism

The Elevator Pitch. Tell us about your book in a sentence.

It’s a cautionary tale of a woman who worked hard not to let her autism get in the way of doing everything, because that’s what she thought she was supposed to do, only to have all of her efforts to not let her autism get in the way… get in the way of anything.

Describe your ideal reader.

The serious answer is that I wrote this for my fellow autistic people and hope that curious non-autistic people will get something out of it, too. But I’m also really excited about the prospect that autism professionals will read this in an effort to gain more insight into the autistic mind for their work and then be subjected to my reflections on butt wrestling.

What authors/books is your work in conversation with?

Much like its awkward autistic author, I imagine my book wandering around and desperately wanting to talk to other books, but having no clue how to start. But Laura James’s Odd Girl Out is its friend.

What is something interesting you learned about your book/yourself/your subject during the process of creating and publishing your book?

I learned that I was born mere hours after my parents finished watching Zardoz. And that they think Zardoz is a bad movie!

You write about your time as a professional pillow fighter in the book. If you were to come out of retirement for one last fight, who would be your dream opponent?

The brilliant and the terrifying Miyako Matsumoto.

An important part of any book launch are the thank you’s. Go ahead, and acknowledge someone whose support has been integral to this project.

I have no answer to this that isn’t unbearably earnest and long-winded. So I’ll thank my cat, Arcadia, who spent most of the writing process by my side. I got moral support and she got a captive human for hours on end. That’s a mutually beneficial relationship.

What are you reading right now or next?

I’ve got Sarah Louise Butler’s The Wild Heavens on deck right now. Even if I didn’t feel connected to her because she is also a Douglas & McIntyre author named Sarah releasing a first book in the midst of a pandemic, I’d still be sold on that premise. Instantly.



Book Cover I Overcame My Autism

About I Overcame My Autism and All I Got Was This Lousy Anxiety Disorder:

Sarah Kurchak is autistic. She hasn’t let that get in the way of pursuing her dream to become a writer, or to find love, but she has let it get in the way of being in the same room with someone chewing food loudly, and of cleaning her bathroom sink. In I Overcame My Autism and All I Got Was This Lousy Anxiety Disorder, Kurchak examines the Byzantine steps she took to become “an autistic success story,” how the process almost ruined her life and how she is now trying to recover.

Growing up undiagnosed in small-town Ontario in the eighties and nineties, Kurchak realized early that she was somehow different from her peers. She discovered an effective strategy to fend off bullying: she consciously altered nearly everything about herself—from her personality to her body language. She forced herself to wear the denim jeans that felt like being enclosed in a sandpaper iron maiden. Every day, she dragged herself through the door with an elevated pulse and a churning stomach, nearly crumbling under the effort of the performance. By the time she was finally diagnosed with autism at twenty-seven, she struggled with depression and anxiety largely caused by the same strategy she had mastered precisely. She came to wonder, were all those years of intensely pretending to be someone else really worth it?

Tackling everything from autism parenting culture to love, sex, alcohol, obsessions and professional pillow fighting, Kurchak’s enlightening memoir challenges stereotypes and preconceptions about autism and considers what might really make the lives of autistic people healthier, happier and more fulfilling.

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