When I learned that my friend Alyssa Gonzalez was publishing a book through Thornapple Press, I was eager to read it and I knew I wanted to write a review of “Nonmonogamy and Neurodiversity.” I am neurodivergent thanks to DID, and I have been nonmonogamous at various times in my life. I am, therefore the target audience! Alyssa was kind enough to offer me an author’s copy of her book for me to review, which you can read below.
An easy and quick read, “Nonmongamy & Neurodiversity” states the intention to reach three main audiences: Neurodivergent (ND) people who are considering consensual nonmonogamy (CNM), ND’s who are currently practicing CNM, and Neurotypical (NT) people who want to better understand their ND partners.
For ND’s considering CNM, this should not be your first book on the subject but a companion to read once you’re already fully familiar with the basics. What this book does offer is significant validation if your experiences with monogamy have been harmful, compassionate descriptions of the challenges that may be ahead of you if you choose polyamory as your path, and loving encouragement for why doing so may bring you freedom.
For ND’s currently practicing CNM, this book’s primary accomplishment is to reflect and validate you in a world that rarely does so for ND’s. It may put into words ideas that you knew but had not been able to identify. However, the actionable advice in this book is extremely limited. There are a handful of suggested tools to address just three potential challenges ND’s may face in polyamory, but most of these tools would need further research or the assistance of a therapist to actually utilize.
For NT’s looking to deepen their understanding of the ND partner, this book should be read with your allyship hat firmly on your head and a commitment to not taking things personally. You will learn plenty about the kinds of challenges ND people face and perhaps gain insight into why they find certain tasks easier or harder than you’d expect. However, NT’s are not treated with much compassion in this book and are often named as the main source of pain and suffering for ND’s. This is not necessarily a problem but you should know going in that the value of this book for you is coming from consuming media that does not center or coddle you, in a society when you are used to being centered. Expect to craft your own plan for how to apply that knowledge after the fact.
Besides lacking in concrete examples of advice, “Nonmonogamy and Neurodiversity” has two main problems: The pacing of the book is unbalanced, such that sections that do not fulfill the stated purpose of the book are given extended passages; whereas sections that do deliver are rushed through, meaning that rich, complex ideas that have the potential to be incredibly helpful are given a couple lines of attention at most.
The second problem is that while the book claims to not focus on any one diagnosis, the challenges and strengths of ND people that are named are heavily weighted toward autistic people, with BPD and ADHD included in some sections. Issues such as insecure attachment, trauma triggers, memory, executive function or conflicting access needs are entirely absent. (Some of these topics are covered at length, however, in “Polysecure: Attachment, Trauma, and Consensual Nonmonogamy,” also by Thornapple Press.) Despite being a neurodivergent nonmonogamous person who finds polyamory challenging, none of my specific challenges were ever touched on.
If you are an ND person who would benefit from seeing your own experiences in romantic relationships reflected in written form, this book will likely achieve that. However, if you are looking for guidance or advice, I would seek other resources.
About the author of “Nonmonogamy and Neurodiversity”: Alyssa Gonzalez is a biology Ph.D., public speaker and writer. She writes extensively about biology, history, sociology and her experiences as an autistic ex-Catholic Hispanic transgender immigrant to Canada at her blog, The Perfumed Void. She also writes speculative fiction that explores social isolation, autism, gender, trauma and the relationships among all of these things. She lives in Ottawa, Canada with a menagerie of pets.
About the reviewer: Kella Hanna-Wayne is the creator, editor, and main writer for Yopp. She specializes in educational writing about civil rights, disability, chronic illness, abuse, and Dissociative Identity Disorder. Her work has been published in Ms. Magazine blog, The BeZine, and Splain You a Thing and in 2022, she released a self-published book of poetry, “Pet: the Journey from Abuse to Recovery“. You can find her @KellaHannaWayne on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Medium, and Twitter.