Nobody Nowhere by Donna Williams

How would a functionally non verbal child with autism manage, survive, even thrive without their carers?  This book takes you on a 25 year walk in the shoes to find out.


Published in 1991 Nobody Nowhere was the first book by a person diagnosed with autism to be published in mainstream publishing and the first to become an international bestseller.  It spent a remarkable 15 weeks on the New York Times Bestseller List. 

It was the first of four books in Donna's autie-biographical series, Nobody Nowhere is disturbing, eloquent and ticklishly funny.  It is an account of a soul of someone who lived the word 'autism' and survived abuse, trauma, neglect, exploitation despite intense inner chaos and incomprehension. 

Born into a 1960s dysfunctional underclass family rife with criminality, substance abuse and domestic violence, Donna starts out as a two year old diagnosed as psychotic at age 2, and grows up treated as mad, backward and disturbed and the child who 'will never be able to tell'.  But gaining functional speech by late childhood, Donna leaves home by 8 years old and is homeless by her teens in an exploitative world that can no more understand her than she can her users and abusers.  Nobody Nowhere is an epic story of survival against all odds.  Published in 20 languages throughout the world.

Nobody a moving, gripping, surreal, myth-shattering, but ultimately uplifting book and one that will stay with you as one of the most moving and exceptional works you will ever read. Life, 'normality' and 'reality' will not be the same after you read this book.


* Anyone wanting to deeply walk in autistic shoes,
* Those wondering how autistic children grow up and navigate adulthood,
* Teens and adults living with disabilities and dealing with estrangement from the mainstream world,
* Those living with or in relationships with people with autism and mental health challenges,
* Those working with people with autism who dare to challenge the assumptions and stereotypes,
* Those who have survived extreme adversity or are hoping to,
* Those who like powerful autobiographies of endurance and survival.

What readers said:

  • She allows us to understand our own perceptions as never before - New York Times
  • As brave a book as you'll ever read - Los Angeles Times
  • By turns fascinating and harrowing - People Magazine
  • Deserves every superlative a reviewer can muster - The Globe and Mail
  • Powerful enough to make one reassess what it means to be human - Mode


You can order this book from the publishers

The current publishers for Nobody Nowhere are listed here

If in Australia you can order this book from the distributor, Footprint Books here

If you're a publisher looking to acquire other foreign language rights, please contact JKP to discuss acquisition.


Why I wrote the book

Though I was diagnosed with autism at the age of two I was never told about it and so grew up introduced as 'that's Donna, she's disturbed', 'that's Donna, she's psychotic', 'that's Donna, she's feral'.  Because of this I longed to understand 'what kind of mad I was'.  

When I wrote Nobody Nowhere I had given up hope of ever getting understanding of my condition.  After a wild half-crazy life with abuse, homelessness and ultimately hope for belonging I found that I was terrified of real closeness. I had a last inkling of hope that I couldn't truly say I'd tried my hardest to cope if I'd never fully disclosed the nature of my own private world. So I wrote out everything that mattered in my feelings and decided to give it to one child psychiatrist in the hope they could tell me what kind of mad I was and whether there was hope for answers and belonging. My intention was to then shred it, burn it and then step in front of a moving train.

Instead, once this psychiatrist read it, I abandoned the manuscript and left the country.  With me 10,000 miles away, it was passed on to this psychiatrist's mentor.  She passed it on to her publisher (Routledge) who felt it would be too big a book for them.  He passed it on to a well known literary agent.  From there they tracked me down and sent my landlord a fax to tell me four major publishers were bidding for the rights and would I agree to him representing me and to its publication.   Reluctantly, I agreed (who the hell wants an extremely private book shared with the entire world?).  Within months it became an international bestseller.


My mother decided that it was time for me to get a job. I was fifteen years old.
Soon the box of fur coats began to fill up, and the boss passed by, impressed with the speed of my work. He decided to check the quality.  A horrified look grew upon his face, and he began to shout as he turned each garment around and around.  ˜What have you done?' he screamed over and over. ˜Button-holes in the sleeves, button-holes in the collar, button-holes in the back panel. Get the hell out of here.'  ˜Can I have my money?' I asked shyly.  ˜No!' he screamed. ˜Do you know what you've done? You've caused me thousands of dollars in damage. Get the hell out of here before I kick you out.'  I hadn't realized that the button-holes were meant to go anywhere in particular.

... The woman sitting on Anne's bed was screaming at her over and over again to shut up and propping the doll back in its place with every shove Anne made to push it away. It was more than I could take. Physically I moved the woman out of the way, moved the doll and gave her my brush. Anne ran her fingers repetitively through the bristles listening to the soft, barely audible sound in her ear and the sensation in the hand. I began to hum a repetitive tune I used to do for myself over and over again as I tapped her arm in time to the hypnotic tune. Then, for a frozen fifteen seconds, in that torchlit dark room, she completely uncrossed her eyes for the first time since I'd met her and looked directly into my face as she tapped and now hummed.