A memoir by Kate Goldfield
It's a tale of adventure. A story of growth. A look into the human psyche, you might say.
Growing up is hard for everyone. It's even harder for those with autism or Asperger's Syndrome (AS). Things that everyone else takes for granted - social interactions, being able to navigate a busy grocery store, making friends - are significant challenges for people with AS. It's harder still when you have to deal with chemical sensitivity as well. Suddenly, no place is safe anymore, because people's perfumes, lotions, and shampoos, as well as cleaning products and fragrances in stores, make you so sick that the normal activities of life become almost impossible.
So what happens when a 22 year old with both autism and chemical sensitivity leaves college and tries to make her way in the world?
"Common Scents: Adventures with Autism and Chemical Sensitivity" is the story of a young woman's search for physical and emotional safety as she journeys through the mountains of the Cascades, small coastal towns on the Oregon coast, and out-of the-way towns in upstate New York. Along the way, she experiences things she would never have dreamed possible had she stayed in her Maine hometown, and begins to learn the power of human connection.
The book starts in the spring of the author's senior year of college, where she is forced to leave school because of her growing chemical sensitivities. With much regret, she moves home and spends several months living with her parents.
Desiring independence, she tries to live in several apartments of her own in downtown Portland, Maine. Unfortunately, something in one of the apartments makes her sensitivity to chemicals so much worse that she is not able to tolerate any apartments, nor her parents' house.
So her journey for a chemical free living environment starts.
Primarily using the website Craigslist to find roommates who already live a chemical and fragrance free lifestyle to live with, she travels to cities across the country to pursue this goal. She starts in Burlington, Vermont, and goes to Missoula, Montana; Liberty, New York; Newport, Oregon; Bend, Oregon; Eugene, Oregon; Ballston Spa, New York, and finally back to her hometown of Falmouth, Maine.
In each of these cities, her eyes are opened to the way the rest of the world lives. Each city is a separate chapter. In each city, she recreates the experiences that changed the way she sees the world. In each city, the author talks about the people she meets, and details her struggles and successes with interacting with the people around her.
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