“Poppa, Do You Have Autism?”

I am sharing an excerpt from my keynote address at the HANd Autism & Neurodiversity Conference at Appalachian State University in North Carolina on Sept. 27, 2019. I shared it on social media recently, as well. It is a story that helped frame my understanding of autism, my son’s understanding of autism, and, I think,…

On blackness and autism, identity and essence

Often I’m asked “What are you?” Racial and ethnic identity still inform so much in our culture. The question asked really is a question of identity. “What are you?” masks the underlying question, “Who are you?” When I was young I was black. My father, Neal Hemachandra, was black. His mother, Leathe Wade Colvert, was…

My Not-So-Secret Identity: Glasses On and Off

When I was growing up in New York, I was definitely considered shy and quiet, lacking confidence, unsure of myself. I agreed with this assessment. It’s fair to say, I think, that in my adult life, which has taken place almost entirely away from New York, just about no one has thought of me in…

Bowling in Chicago: friendship, racism, loyalty, and the meaning of team through the paradigm of working-class communities and bowling leagues in the late 20th century

I went to graduate school studying political science at the University of Chicago in Hyde Park starting in 1989. Soon after arriving I looked for a bowling league to join. It seemed to me if you lived in Chicago, you should be on a bowling team. I didn’t learn about 16-inch softball in Chicago until…