Divergent Mind


Jenara Nerenberg traces her journey to self-knowledge as she examines the discrimination directed toward women with ADHD, autism and extreme sensitivities.

Harvard and Berkeley-educated writer, entrepreneur and mother, Jenara Nerenberg traces her life’s journey to self-knowledge through examining the discrimination faced by women with ADHD, autism and extreme sensitivities. Nerenberg weaves her own neurodivergency throughout this compelling combination of emotional awakening, medical fact, call for action and plea for understanding. She dissects without bitterness and with the goal of enlightening readers the way the world favors so-called “normal” individuals with neurotypical brain functions. Nerenberg argues for a movement – akin to a civil rights movement – celebrating a range of brain processes and perceptions.

Both literary critics and those who work with the neurodiverse offer high praise for Nerenberg’s melange of personal essay and journalism. Elaine Aron, PhD, best-selling author of The Highly Sensitive Person, said, “…Nerenberg offers a unique blend of personal, scientific and societal analysis. Divergent Mind is really for all women, giving them the chance to understand each others’ invisible differences and gifts.” And Booklist wrote, “Empowering….This important book not only advocates for research and innovation; it demonstrates the power of acceptance, kindness and the celebration of differences.”


Nerenberg relates her confusion when she was fired from a journalism job in her 20s. At her next job, administrative chores overwhelmed her. Like other neurodivergent people, Nerenberg learned that she was far more likely than “normal” people to face termination.

Its no wonder that we women walk around with unnecessary amounts of shame, guilt, depression and anxiety. Our reality has not been properly validated.Jenara Nerenberg

Nerenberg explains that neurodivergency includes people who process sounds, sights, smells and tactile information differently than the general population. She reports that neurodivergent people may have:

  • Asperger’s and other forms of autism.
  • Attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD).
  • Sensory processing disorder (SPD).

Nerenberg recounts how her feelings of confusion, worthlessness and loss diminished after she learned about neurodiversity and connected with the neurodivergent community. 


Books about autism and ADHD, Nerenberg reveals, tend to overlook women. Researchers rarely study neurodivergent women. She depicts as tragic the way that women mask signs of autism, Asperger’s and ADHD consciously or unconsciously. Such masking, Nerenberg discovered, can lead to anxiety, emptiness and depression.

Women are usually diagnosed much later in life than men/boys, and the societal pressure to mask is much bigger for girls. Autism and other neurodivergent traits thus become expressed differently in men and women.Jenara Nerenberg

Nerenberg relates her saga as a cautionary tale meant to inspire other women or girls who suffer as she did. Growing up, she grappled with high levels of sensitivity and inquisitiveness. Through trial-and-error, she learned to mirror other girls’ mannerisms and social interactions. Nerenberg fears for and offers compassion to women who spend a lifetime masking.

Obsolete Stereotypes

Nerenberg breaks down how neurodiversity can function and how many misconceptions surround it. The “AD” in ADHD stands for attention deficit. But, Nerenberg insists, ADHD is not a deficit in attention span; it’s the inability to control or regulate attention.

Sensitive to noise, sounds, lights or fabric, people with ADHD are intensely curious, susceptible to judgments and criticism, and self-critical. An overload of information, sensation or emotion, the author details, can trigger high levels of frustration or emotional meltdowns. Nerenberg reviles stereotypes that mislabel ADHD and autistic people as remote or socially awkward. When highly sensitive people are overwhelmed, she discloses, they hide behind a barrier that superficially resembles indifference or disconnection.

The “Neurodiversity” Movement

Nerenberg draws specific parallels to the way the civil rights movement champions racial, gender, sexual preference and lifestyle differences. Neurodiversity activists seek similar acknowledgment for neurological differences and “inner lives.” Advocates worry that medical practitioners view neurological differences as pathological variances.

Instead of your difference being what holds you back, its gifts can be uncovered. Some refer to this as unlocking a kind of superpower, and discerning difference as power can be invigorating.Jenara Nerenberg

Neurodiversity activists, such as Nerenberg, object to dividing people between normal-functioning brains and abnormal or flawed brains. They regard ADHD, high sensitivity (HSP) and Asperger’s as neurodivergent brain types that perceive and process information differently. Nerenberg asks: Why is heightened sensitivity regarded as an abnormality or a disorder?


The author urges the sensitive to avoid crowds and bright lights, to exercise, to engage in talk therapy and to work at home. While Nerenberg recognizes the difficulties of expecting the general population to understand the neurodiverse, she stresses that understanding your own neurodivergency leads to personal growth and healing.

Compassion and Self-Compassion

Nerenberg’s basic theme resembles the primary messages coming now from many formerly stigmatized and now increasingly accepted movements on behalf of people who once seemed different from a randomly imposed normality, including the non-white, the gay, the transgendered, and so on. Her fundamental message is compassion and self-compassion. She delivers this message without preaching. Her arguments, while full of emotion, prove sensible and convincing. She’s a graceful writer who conveys her emotion with power and truth.

The neurodiverse, those who love them, those who care for them and those who are curious about them will also find worthwhile information and worthy insights in NeuroTribes by Steve Silberman and The Power of Neurodiversity by Thomas Armstrong and Neurodiversity at Work by Amanda Kirby and Theo Smith.

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