Published on February 10th, 2022 | by Chris O'Connor

Diagnosis Normal Book Review

Diagnosis Normal Book Review Chris O'Connor

Summary: In a world of social media perfections it's nice to read about life lived through ups and downs, horrors and wonders... that's life and Emma A. Jane has experienced more than many (and more than anyone should in some areas).


Life Learning

I want to start this by saying please be aware that this book can be triggering (the real use of the term). Please seek help if you need it (some numbers are provided at the bottom that may be of use).

As someone married to a person who has been through childhood abuse (and as a father) there are certainly some sections in this book that are a bit tricky to read, but they are arguably quite important to read and I think that’s sort of the point. Ms Jane (I had to put that because I couldn’t help being reminded of Mr Squiggle’s friend), doesn’t hold anything back (seemingly at great cost to herself… I hope with some space between the writing and publishing of this book a sort of catharsis has set in rather than a raw/freshly picked scab sense).

Diagnosis Normal is indeed as it says on the cover, a Memoir that covers living with abuse, undiagnosed autism and covid-grade crazy. I found some portions quite familiar (I can’t handle “overlapping sound”) and other portions I was… I guess angered is the term, for just how horrible society can be (anyone who wants to know what sexism is… this book might certainly open your eyes to some of the ways it can present).

There’s somewhat a sense of two steps forward one step back (or sometimes perhaps one step forward two steps back) throughout the book. Emma has been through some absolutely horrific experiences that no one should ever have to go through, but she has also lived a life of such fullness that no one could fault her for sitting on the sidelines. I can’t really sum up the book any better than she does herself in the blurb on the back “We need to speak unspeakable things. We need more un-pretty stories.” In a world of “influencers” and social media “perfection” we do indeed need to hear and see more stories of reality. It’s too easy to get caught up in polished facades and loose sight of the fact that life (even for those who don’t experience any major trauma) is ups and downs and sometimes those downs are really terrible. It’s important to be honest about the dangers in life, both from others and from ourselves.

As mentioned, there are some sections in Diagnosis Normal that are hard to read. The section dealing with Emma’s childhood trauma is a particular challenge to get through (or was for me and I only live with someone who has been through that, I haven’t experienced it first hand). The sections about what Emma’s child has experienced is also a bit tricky to read as a parent as it’s very easy to worry if your own child might have similar challenges and I can appreciate just how hard it would be to see someone you love go through such pain.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. Emma, or to be fair Dr Jane! Has achieved an impressive many things, not least of which is earning her Phd… whilst bringing a new human into the world (I suspended my Masters after my wife gave birth to our son… so I clearly don’t have the same determination as Dr Jane.). But it’s not just the achievement of becoming a Dr… it’s what Dr Jane has contributed to the world by way of her words in written form and no doubt in lectures.

I suspect I’ve just been rambling here… but I really do encourage people to read Diagnosis Normal (if you feel you aren’t likely to be triggered). It’s an important memoir to shed light on some of the dark parts of life, but also to remind us that we can make a difference and we need to!


If you or someone you know is in crisis, and you are unsure which service to contact, call
Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800 or Lifeline on 13 11 14
A national sexual assault, family and domestic violence counselling line for anyone who has experienced, or is at risk of, physical or sexual violence. This service is designed to meet the needs of people with disabilities, Indigenous Australians, young people and individuals from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. Online counselling is also available.
1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732)  
Bravehearts Information and Support Line
Open to anyone wanting information, advice, referrals and support regarding child sexual assault.
1800 272 831

About the Author'

Father of four, husband of one and all round oddity. Gaming at home since about 1982 with a Sinclair ZX Spectrum. Moving on to the more traditional PC genre in the years that followed with the classic Jump Joe and Alley Cat. CGA, EGA, VGA and beyond PC's have been central to my gaming but I've also enjoyed consoles and hand helds along the way (who remembers the Atari Lynx?). Would have been actor/film maker, jack of many trades master of none.

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