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Tech helps open boy to world in memoir

  • COURTESY VIKING

“TO SIRI WITH LOVE: A MOTHER, HER AUTISTIC SON AND THE KINDNESS OF MACHINES”

By Judith Newman

(HarperCollins, $26.99)

Technology has often gotten a bum rap for ushering humans into their own private microcosms.

But writer Judith Newman has a different take on the matter. Her teenage son, Gus, who is on the autism spectrum, has developed a friendship with Siri, the personal assistant for the iPhone. Chronicling the friendship between Siri and Gus, as well as raising a family with a member who is “neuroatypical,” is the subject of her new memoir.

“In a world where the commonly held wisdom is that technology isolates us, it’s worth considering another side of the story,” Newman writes in “To Siri With Love: A Mother, Her Autistic Son and the Kindness of Machines.”

It’s not that Gus thinks Siri is human; he understands she isn’t. But like many on the autism spectrum, Newman writes, Gus feels “inanimate objects, while maybe not possessing souls, are worthy of our consideration.”

Newman writes her son, who is communication-impaired, has grown from his conversations with the phone’s assistant. Generally speaking, Gus’s speech is garbled, and he doesn’t always show interest in conversing with people.

“Recently, I had the longest conversation with him I’ve ever had,” she writes.

The book is a tenderhearted and well-written account of Newman’s unusual family. She had twin boys who were born early and after a hard pregnancy. Her husband is a retired opera singer who is 30 years her senior and lives in a separate home in another neighborhood in Manhattan. He never spends the night with Newman and the boys.

There’s much to be learned from Newman’s ruminations and insight on many levels.

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