Jen Malia is an autistic author and advocate.
Her debut children’s picture book, Too Sticky!: Sensory Issues with Autism (Albert Whitman, April 2020), is about a girl who has to overcome her fear of sticky hands to participate in a slime experiment. The main character is based on her own and her daughter’s experiences living with autism and sensory issues.
She knew doctors were wrong when they said her daughter had just a language delay. She spent hundreds of hours looking for answers. She came across research on the gender differences with autism that helped her daughter get the right diagnosis. She realized that not only was her daughter autistic—she was, too. She was diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in her late 30s, on the same day as her daughter. Her son was also diagnosed with ASD a year later.
You can read about her diagnosis in an essay she wrote for Woman’s Day, which was syndicated by Cosmopolitan, Country Living, Good Housekeeping (US & UK), Dr. Oz The Good Life, and Yahoo. You can also read more about her experience as an autistic woman and mom in her essays for The New York Times, New York Magazine, The Washington Post, Catapult, Glamour, and Woman’s Day, among others.
She earned her PhD in English and MS in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages from the University of Southern California. She’s Associate Professor of English at Norfolk State University. During her four years as an American expat in the United Arab Emirates, she was Assistant Professor of Writing at the American University of Sharjah.
She lives in Virginia Beach with her husband and three kids. Her oldest daughter was born in Dubai.
She’s a world traveler who’s been to twenty countries around the globe. As a contributing author of Knocked Up Abroad Again: Baby bumps, twists, and turns around the globe, she wrote about hiking Petra with her husband and oldest daughter, then six months old, strapped to her in a baby carrier.
As a Taekwondo black belt, she trains with her two daughters. She also explores the beaches and hiking trails around Virginia Beach with her family.