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Unstrange Minds: Remapping the World of Autism

Unstrange Minds: Remapping the World of Autism

3.5 2
by Roy Richard Grinker
This global exploration of autism by a scientist--and father of an autistic child--is the first book to show that the "epidemic" holds surprising new promise for better diagnosis and treatment. Unstrange Minds documents Grinker's quest to find out why autism is so much more common today, and to uncover the implications of the increase. His search took him to


This global exploration of autism by a scientist--and father of an autistic child--is the first book to show that the "epidemic" holds surprising new promise for better diagnosis and treatment. Unstrange Minds documents Grinker's quest to find out why autism is so much more common today, and to uncover the implications of the increase. His search took him to Africa, India, and East Asia, to the National Institutes of Mental Health, and to the mountains of Appalachia. What he discovered is both surprising and controversial: There is no true increase in autism.

Grinker shows that the identification and treatment of autism depends on culture just as much as on science. As more and more cases of autism are documented, doctors are describing the disorder better, school systems are coding it better--and children are benefiting.

Editorial Reviews

A fresh view of the challenges posed by this condition.Grinker's exploration of cultural differences in attitudes to autism is very moving.
People Magazine
Rigorous and compelling. . . Deeper and more provocative than other such memoirs, his work beautifully conveys the fact that Isabel is not her disability; instead she is invested with `an inner truth . . . struggling to blossom.'
New England Journal of Medicine
Thoughtfully written by a father and scientist trying to understand his daughter and illuminate her disorder.
Unstrange Minds makes the case that the rise in autism diagnosis is nothing more than an epidemic of discovery.
AHA Newsletter
Scientifically rigorous and profoundly moving.
PsycCritiques (American Psychological Assoc.)
Fascinating book at many levels. It is very well written and enjoyable to read.
Toronto Globe & Mail
His daughter Isabel was diagnosed in 1994, and his warmth and compassion for autistic children and parents alike shines through this immensely readable and informative narrative that looks closely at how culture influences the ways we understand, classify and treat autistic-spectrum disorders.
The Journal of Clinical Investigation
Grinker shows us that it's possible, and perhaps valuable, to deconstruct autism as a means of understanding and addressing it. Given the desperation so evident today, this is a welcome perspective.
Time Magazine
In Unstrange Minds: Remapping the World of Autism, Grinker uses the lens of anthropology to show how shifting cultural conditions change the way medical scientists do their work and how we perceive mental health
[A] beautifully written look at autism through the lens of history and culture.
USA Today
Hands down, Unstrange Minds is the most useful book of the bunch for anyone who is interested in learning more about autism.

Medscape Pediatrics
[I]mpassioned and thoughtful.

Publishers Weekly
Autism is no longer considered a rare, stigmatized disorder; it's one that touches the lives of an increasing number of individuals worldwide. Grinker, director of the George Washington University Institute for Ethnographic Research, is one example of this phenomenon. Driven by the 1994 autism diagnosis his daughter, Isabel, received, Grinker endeavors to collect the myriad scientific, historical and cultural components of autism into an accessible primer. The book is divided into two parts-academic and anecdotal-throughout which the author illustrates his daughter's development and how his family has coped and developed alongside her. The first section recounts the history of autism, from the illness's initial description in 1943, its once taboo status and the erroneously cited causes of autism. Special attention is given to the evolving diagnostic criteria and the increase in prevalence rates. In the emotionally powerful second portion, Grinker details the experiences of parents of autistic children in South Africa, South Korea and India, how their respective societies view the disorder (often negatively) and the obstacles surmounted to increase awareness of autism, its treatment and management. While this grounds the book, the lengths to which Grinker goes to prove to the parents of autistic children they are not alone needn't have been so extensive. (Feb.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Anthropologist Grinker (George Washington Univ. Inst. for Ethnographic Research; In the Arms of Africa) beautifully explores autism from three distinct vantage points. First, he probes its impact on the family through his daughter Isabel (b. 1991). While there are relatively standard passages documenting conflicts with school placement and services, he taps a different side of autism by showing her learning the cello. Next, Grinker examines the broader historical context of autism through the work and lives of key figures Leo Kanner (who first identified autistic children) and Bruno Bettleheim (who worked extensively with them). He also addresses the autism epidemic by pointing out that many people with autism were not seen as autistic before. Third, the text addresses autism in a larger global context, explaining how cultures in Africa, India, and South Korea cope with the condition. These three elements combine to create a book that ranks with Uta Frith's Autism: Explaining the Enigmaas one of the great general books on autism. Highly recommended.
—Corey Seeman

Product Details

Basic Books
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.40(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.20(d)

Meet the Author

Roy Richard Grinker is Professor of Anthropology and Director, George Washington University Institute for Ethnographic Research. He is the author of four other books, including the widely acclaimed In the Arms of Africa: The Life of Colin M. Turnbull. He lectures widely at universities and to parents and professionals involved in autism. He lives in Cabin John, Maryland.

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Unstrange Minds: Remapping the World of Autism 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was written by a cultural anthropologist who is also the parent of a child on the autism spectrum. It is not a book that gives advice on how to get services. Instead, it explains the history of the cultural understanding of autism in particular and mental health in general, both in the United States and other countries. Mainly, Grinker's point is that there are not more instances of autism today than yesterday, but that differences in the way we diagnose and understand autism make it seem that way. In addition, he finds some satisfaction in what calling autism an 'epidemic' has led to: better understanding culturally of these kinds of people so more understanding for the individuals out there on the spectrum. I found his stories about parents of children with autism in South Korea, India, and South Africa enlightening. Showing the way that people from different cultures deal with autism and the education of children with autism really helped me to understand the way my culture sees it. I absolutely recommend this book to any parent of a child with autism or anybody interested in the history of mental health in general.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am about 1/2 way through this book and really don't have any ambition to finish it. This author writes a lot about different psychoanalyists opinions 'eg.Bettelheim' and how children were diagnosed with autism and what caused it. Personally I really am not all that jazzed about how Bettelheim thought an uncaring mother was to blame for having an autistic child.