News & Politics

The Ride Together: A Brother and Sister’s Memoir of Autism in the Family

“Unusual, modest” book combining narrative and comics.

The chapters of this unusual, modest book alternate between narrative by Judy Karasik and comics by her brother Paul. The Karasiks—who grew up in Chevy Chase—tell the story of their autistic older brother, David, and his disability’s impact on their family of six over the years.

 The book provides little practical information about autism. Both authors’ interest is in remembering the daily life of their family, one of whose members challenges their emotions, patience, and understanding but who has always been loved and respected.

 David’s favorite pastime is impersonating people on TV, from Sergeant Bilko to Meet the Press panelists. “Sometimes David, who knows the middle name of every member of the House and Senate who has served during his lifetime, will give the guests new jobs,” Judy Karasik writes. “He sent Elliot Richardson to France as an ambassador for a while there. Sometimes he’ll keep people alive; he interviewed Patrice Lumumba into the 1970s.”

 While Judy’s chapters are from her perspective—that of the “responsible” female sibling—Paul’s drawings allow him to switch points of view, even depicting David’s fantasy life. As skillfully as Judy writes, I found myself looking forward to Paul’s playful and subtly touching comics—perhaps because they were so unexpected.

“What do you two plan to do about your brother when your mother dies?” the adult Judy—angry and overtaxed—asks her two nondisabled brothers at the book’s start. By the end, when the story returns to the present, she’s learned not to expect definite answers. The ride—with its joy and its sadness—is ongoing, its end indistinct.

Paul Karasik and Judy Karasik

Washington Square Press


Senior Managing Editor

Bill O’Sullivan is senior managing editor; from 1999 to 2007, he was a features editor. In another lifetime, he was assistant managing editor. Somewhere in the middle, he was managing editor of Common Boundary magazine and senior editor at the Center for Public Integrity. His personal essays have been cited three times among the notable essays of the year in The Best American Essays. He teaches at the Writer’s Center in Bethesda.