Fern Brady writing autism memoir

Tuesday 28th September 2021, 9:24am by Jay Richardson

  • Fern Brady is writing her first book, Strong Female Character
  • Due to be published in February 2023, it focuses on autism and the sexism that surrounds the condition
  • "This is a book about how being a woman gets in the way of people's expectation of what autism should look like"
Live From The BBC. Fern Brady. Copyright: Phil McIntyre Entertainment / Ellis O'Brien.

Fern Brady is writing a memoir, focusing on her autism and the sexism that surrounds the condition.

The comic, who publicly shared her formal diagnosis on social media earlier this year, begins her UK-wide tour, Autistic Bikini Queen, in January, with Strong Female Character to be published by Brazen on Valentine's Day, 2023.

Her first book, it will reflect on her time spent in psychiatric care, which she dramatised in the 2016 BBC Three pilot Radges, and her experience of working as a stripper while studying in Edinburgh.

And it pledges to convey "her voice as a neurodivergent, working-class woman from Scotland to bring issues such as sex work, abusive relationships and her time spent in teenage mental health units to the page", taking "a sledgehammer to the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope which is mistakenly applied to neurodiverse women."

Currently appearing with Ivo Graham and Darren Harriott in the Dave travelogue British As Folk, Brady realised that she was autistic "when I first read about it at 16 but the understanding of how it presented in women was so limited then" she told The Scotsman, expanding on her ability to "mask" the condition.

"It's not like it presents so differently in women, it's just that we are better at covering it up. When I tried to get diagnosed at 16 they said you can't have it because you've had a boyfriend, which is so stupid. When I finally got diagnosed this year the doctor said you would not believe how often I hear this from women.

"So that's what the book is about, how autism is not recognised in women and why. They find that a lot of autistic women, their special interests are in people not things, so you might have a boyfriend that you talk about incessantly and make the main focus of everything. In Scotland that's kind of normal, to just be a bit part player and live in the margins of your husband's life, so autism just slides by unnoticed."

Launched earlier this year as an imprint of the Octopus Publishing Group, Brazen's nascent catalogue has a focus on mental health, with Brady's memoir following that of comedian-doctor Ed Patrick's Catch Your Breath: The Secret Life of a Sleepless Anaesthetist, published last month.

"I've always had people from my audience coming up and telling me I have autism and also a lot of my audience are autistic" Brady explained to the Scotsman." There's something about it, almost like gaydar, we can spot it in other people: talking a bit too loud or saying the wrong things in social situations."

Nevertheless, it was the pressures of lockdown that prompted the bisexual comic to seek a formal diagnosis.

"On my last tour I'd been getting more and more ill from the strains of it, but was so busy I didn't have time to address it" she said. "Lockdown was a good opportunity to do that. The odd thing was I didn't feel better when I got diagnosed. I felt really grossed out, like I wished I could take it back. I didn't feel catharsis or anything."

Thankfully, stand-up has been an outlet for the condition: "Definitely comedy's the only job where it's been helpful for me," she said. "I kept getting described as provocative or really blunt and honest as if this was a persona I was putting on, when the persona I was putting on was when I had to go and work as a secretary, or pretty much any other job where I felt suffocated by trying to act normal all the time."

However, "it's not great being autistic in the world of TV and stuff".

On British As Folk, "I had to mask a lot initially but ended up just telling the producer. I said 'I don't want to be precious, I'm really not touchy-feely about mental health, but I'm autistic, so if I stop speaking as much towards the end of the day, or start covering my eyes because of all the lights, it's not cos I'm annoyed at you, it's because of that. And they were amazing, just so sound. I'm looking forward to writing about it in the book."


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Fern Brady - Strong Female Character

Fern Brady - Strong Female Character

"This is a book about how being a woman gets in the way of people's expectation of what autism should look like and, equally, how being autistic gets in the way of people's expectations of what a woman should look like."

Strong Female Character is a game-changing memoir on sexism and neurodiversity. Fern Brady uses her voice as a neuro-divergent, working-class woman from Scotland to bring issues such as sex work, abusive relationships and her time spent in teenage mental health units to the page. It takes a sledgehammer to the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope which is mistakenly applied to neuro-diverse women and looks at how her lack of regard for social expectations ultimately meant she surpassed any limitations of what a Scottish working-class woman can do.

First published: Tuesday 14th February 2023

  • Publisher: Brazen
  • Pages: 288
  • Catalogue: 9781914240447

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