2007 NY: Basic Books.
A father’s inspiring portrait of his daughter informs this classic reassessment of the “epidemic” of autism.
In his rigorous and compelling book, Grinker examines the way advances in child psychiatry and cultural attitudes have changed the picture of autistics and limns his family’s own hopeful story. He travels widely to report on autism in countries including South Africa, where some patients see Zulu healers. 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.
Roy Richard Grinker, a renowned anthropologist, walks across the rolling, highly charged world of autism and somehow manages to decipher what is real and what is not. The result is this big-hearted, uplifting, fiercely rigorous book – a genuine gift to readers who believe in the power of truth.
This is a wise and compassionate book, informed by academic rigor, deep personal feeling, and a sensitivity not only to the difference that is autism but also to the variety of human experience across cultures and classes. Grinker’s research is as wide-ranging as it is open-minded, bringing together the precision of social science and the artistry of memoir, balancing the academic and the anecdotal to build polemical arguments about the nature and prevalence of autism. He speaks of how people have responded to the illness, and of how else we might respond, and in doing so challenges us to make a better world.
Hands down, Unstrange Minds is the most useful book of the bunch for anyone who is interested in learning more about autism.