Dispatches from Ray's Planet

A Journey through Autism

By Claire Finlayson

Categories: Memoir
Imprint: Caitlin Press
Paperback : 9781773860305, 240 pages, September 2020

A collective memoir that explores a woman's journey to understand the complexities of her adult brother's symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorder.


As a child, Claire's big brother Ray was always bright and inquisitive, but as the two became teenagers, Ray struggled to acquire the social skills that came more easily to others. Claire tried to help, pointing out (after Ray's many "bloopers") what he should or shouldn't have said or done. Ray insisted that he wasn't the problem--"On my planet..." he would explain, there were no social climbers, no subtle hints or subliminal messages to miss, and the telling of little white lies would be a capital offence. At sixteen, sitting with him in the high school cafeteria, Claire vowed to find Ray's planet.

After graduation, Ray took a job as a letter carrier with Canada Post, but after thirty-three years on the job he was fired, blew his appeal, and spiralled into a suicidal depression. Claire didn't know he was in trouble until he reached out to her by email. Thus began a remarkable written correspondence that pulled back the curtain on an inner life Claire couldn't have imagined. Where in-person interactions plunged him into hot water, Ray's writing revealed a compassionate, funny, sad man who showed extraordinary insight into his way of navigating the world. Ray was fifty when Claire realized he might have Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), but by then, having survived without a diagnosis his whole life, Ray was reluctant to have a label pinned on him and resisted Claire's efforts to fix him by trying, in all sincerity, to make him more like her.

Dispatches from Ray's Planet draws on Ray and Claire's correspondence to tell the story of two siblings from two very different planets. There are thousands of Rays in our world. In this collective memoir, Claire and Ray share their journey with the hope that others can also learn that we all perceive the world in different ways, and that "different" does not necessarily mean "wrong."


“Ray [learned he was] on the autism spectrum later in life. For years he held a job as a letter carrier for Canada Post, until painful foot problems made it impossible to walk his route. Today he tutors kids in math. Writing about his thoughts and feelings has always been easier than speaking. There is still a big gulf between him and the neurotypical world. …


I love Ray’s quote about math—’When you prove a theorem by yourself, you stand as an equal with the first person to have proven it. Pythagoras and I are brothers. The truths of math are absolutely true; they are not subject to dispute or interpretation or revision. In a world of noise and pointless going around in circles, math gives us clarity and certainty.’ [Dispatches from Ray’s Planet] describes Ray’s struggles with a world that is not logical and clear like math.”


—Temple Grandin, author, Thinking in Pictures

“This book has really captured how an individual with autism thinks and interacts with the world. For me, as a psychologist and special education teacher, it has brought to life the “clinical descriptors” of autism that I try to communicate in the reports I write. I find the stories and examples absolutely fascinating. I will re-read this book several times … it is so rich in real life examples!


In addition to reading it from a clinical perspective, I also read it as a story about [Claire’s] brother, Ray, and the pain he has endured over the years … it gets me deep inside! What a powerful book! On so many levels and fronts.”


—Deborah Amaral, Ph.D., R. Psych., and retired District Principal of Special Education

“[Finlayson] is a great storyteller, skillfully blending her extensive research on autism, input from family and friends, and her own observations with Ray’s complicated reactions to her findings, provoking laughter, tears and a compulsion to turn the page.”

The Coast Reporter