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INTERNATIONAL BESTSELLER • “Witty, dry, and gimlet-eyed, this is a necessary corrective in a world where Autistic women are all either written off as quiet and docile, or erased entirely.” —Devon Price, Ph.D., author of Unmasking Autism
Scottish comedian Fern Brady was told she couldn't be autistic because she'd had loads of boyfriends and is good at eye contact. In this frank and surreal memoir, she delivers a sharp and often hilarious portrait of neurodivergence and living unmasked.
Finalist for the Porchlight Business Book Award • A Harper’s Bazaar Best Book of the Year
After reading about autism in her teens, Fern Brady knew instinctively that she had it—autism explained her sensory issues, her meltdowns, her inability to pick up on social cues—and she told her doctor as much. But it took until she was thirty-four for her to get diagnosed.
Strong Female Character is about the years in between, and the unique combination of sexism and ableism that so often prevents autistic women from getting diagnosed until adulthood. Coming from a working-class Scottish Catholic family, Fern wasn’t exactly poised to receive an open-minded acceptance of her neurodivergence. With the piercing clarity and wit that has put her at the top of the British comedy scene, she now reflects on the ways her undiagnosed autism influenced her youth, from the tree that functioned as her childhood best friend to the psychiatric facility where she ended up when neither her parents nor school knew what to do with her.
In a memoir as hilarious as it is heartbreaking, Fern leaves no stone unturned while detailing her futile attempts at employment, her increasingly destructive coping mechanisms, and the meltdowns that left her mind (and apartment) in ruins. Her chaotic, nonlinear journey—from stripping to getting arrested to finding a lifeline in comedy to her breakout appearance on the Taskmaster TV show as her full, unmasked self—is both a remarkable coming-of-age tale and a dark but poignant tribute to life at the intersection of womanhood and neurodiversity.
Strong Female Character is a story of how being female can get in the way of being autistic and how being autistic gets in the way of being the 'right kind' of woman.
About the Author
Fern Brady's caustic wit, exceptional writing and electric stage craft have made her one of the UK’s hottest comedy stars. She has performed in twenty countries including at Montreal’s Just For Laughs and Melbourne Comedy Festival. She regularly appears on British TV shows including Live at the Apollo, Taskmaster, Roast Battle and the Russell Howard Hour. She is currently on a world tour for her Autistic Bikini Queen show.
“Strong Female Character is a testament to Brady’s quality of said character, her tenacity in the face of a world not yet ready to grapple with all she brings to it. ―New York Times
“Brady is very funny. But she responsibly and powerfully intends more than just a sad-but-humorous recounting of her experience... Though Brady is annoyed that we’re this far into the 21st century and she still has to explain all this, any reader of Strong Female Character will be glad she did.” ―Washington Post
“Strong Female Character is a testament to the importance of self-knowledge. Fern Brady is a natural and engaging writer, weaving bleak episodes with moments of pure comedy as she reappraises crucial moments in her life through the lens of her autism diagnosis. Brutal honesty and a talent for storytelling combine to make an insightful memoir that’s not only very funny, but will no doubt provide invaluable moments of recognition for many readers.” ―Rachel Healy, The Guardian
“Fern Brady’s book is alive in your hands. Brave doesn’t cover it and I'm not sure what will. Fizzing with intelligence, it will hit you in the heart, lungs, and liver. You’ll laugh, cry, be still, and if you’re not autistic—by God you’ll learn. If you are autistic, you’ll be seen, heard, held, rocked, and loved here.” —Deborah Frances-White, author of The Guilty Feminist
“Glorious. Frank but nuanced, a memoir that doesn’t sacrifice voice or self-awareness. And it has brilliant things to say about being autistic and being funny.” ―Elle McNicoll, author of Show Us Who You Are
“So funny and brilliant.” ―Holly Smale, author of Geek Girl
“Fern’s book, like everything she does, is awesome. Incredibly funny, and so unapologetically frank that I feel genuinely sorry for her lawyers.” ―Phil Wang, comedian and author of Sidesplitter
“Of course it’s funny—it’s Fern Brady—but this book is also deeply moving and eye-opening.” ―Adam Kay, author of This Is Going to Hurt
“An absolute riot. I’m literally going to read it again once I’ve finished, and I’m a miserable bastard...it’s a belter.” ―Frankie Boyle, comedian and author of Meantime
“Witty, dry, and gimlet-eyed, Fern Brady’s Strong Female Character is a necessary corrective in a world where autistic women are all either written off as quiet and docile or erased entirely. Brady offers a compelling, messy, highly resonant portrait of what masked autism feels like to experience.” ―Devon Price, PhD, author of Unmasking Autism and Laziness Does Not Exist
“It made me laugh out loud and broke my heart and made me weep...I hope absolutely everyone reads this, and it makes them kinder and more curious about the way we all live.” ―Daisy Buchanan, comedian and author of Careering
“Fern is a brilliant, beautiful writer with a unique voice and an even more unique story. Astute, honest, and very, very funny.” ―Lou Sanders, comedian and host of the Cuddle Club podcast
“An unflinching self-portrait.” —Kirkus Reviews