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Unstrange Minds: Remapping the World of Autism
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Unstrange Minds: Remapping the World of Autism

3.94  ·  Rating Details ·  606 Ratings  ·  69 Reviews
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. Gri ...more
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published January 22nd 2007 by Basic Books (first published 2007)
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Jan 02, 2008 Jay added it
Recommends it for: Parents, auties, aspies, people with autism, anthropologists, educators
My aspie-self has chosen not to rate this with stars, as I have entered into paradox with my reactions to this book:

I deeply appreciate:
*The deconstruction of the "epidemic" model
*The historical views of psych and autism, in critical dialog
*The cross-cultural research of how societies' treat people labeled (and not labeled) on the autistic spectrum, including frequent reminders that Westernization doesn't equal integration and "less development" doesn't equal not.
*The deep respect and learning
Lars Guthrie
Oct 10, 2010 Lars Guthrie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A subtitle on the cover of Richard Grinker’s ‘Unstrange Minds,’ ‘A Father, a Daughter, and a Search for New Answers’ might give you the idea that his book is a memoir. And in part, it is. The struggles and rewards Grinker and his family go through as they raise, and grow with, their autistic member, the unforgettable Isabel, are touchingly told.

‘Unstrange Minds’ is much more than that, though. Grinker is an anthropologist, and he knowledgeably writes about how the definition and treatment of au
Dec 28, 2007 Erin rated it it was amazing
Being a Special Education teacher, I read a lot of books about disability and particularly about autism. This is probably the best book about autism that I have read to date.

Roy Richard Grinker's book looks at autism from a variety of angles: historical, international, and personal. This is probably the only book on autism I have read so far that truly discusses how our culture came to know autism as it is today. A truly fascinating read that look at the past, present, and future of autism in ou
May 23, 2011 Mark rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
Recommended to Mark by: Laura Loy
Shelves: nonfiction
This review is going to be a little different from my regular review. Normally, the books I review are all fiction. I should also explain that I have a personal bias towards the subject of autism as my own son has been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. (There is a spectrum of autism. On the lower end, you have people who sit in the corner, rocking back and forth, with a vacant stare...never talking, never looking you in the eye. On the higher end, you have relatively normal people who jus ...more
Jun 07, 2009 Tobinsfavorite rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: families of high-functioning spectrum kids
Recommended to Tobinsfavorite by: NPR
I heard the author of this book on the radio shortly after I had given up "autism books" as horrifyingly depressing, and I decided I would read it. I'm very glad I did. It is divided into two sections, one by Grinker the Anthropologist, and one by Grinker the Parent. Both were informative, entertaining, and enlightening. I learned a lot of details about the history of autism diagnosis around the world, a little bit about different cultural views of the same, and a few new ways of thinking. Some ...more
Dec 07, 2008 Lindsay rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone interested in autism
This book has something for almost everyone interested in some aspect of autism: there's a history of the discovery and evolving definition of autism, there's a description of how autism is understood, and what it's like to have a child with autism (i.e., what kind of services are there, is there much social or cultural support for parents, is there much of a stigma, do autistic children have much of a chance at integrating into the larger community as they grow up, etc.), in South Korea, India ...more
May 02, 2013 Nancy rated it liked it
An interesting book on autism that has three threads:

1)A discussion of the changes in definition and regulations surrounding access to treatment that are fueling much of the increase in children diagnosed with autism

2)Travels around the world to see how autistic children are viewed and treated in other countries

3)A sort of memoir chronicling getting treatment and education for Grinker's autistic daughter and the life long challenges of getting the best life for an autistic child

I dithered betwe
Jul 25, 2011 Readyourselfhealthy rated it it was ok
Shelves: autism, parenting
This again is a book that I really wanted to like--it won awards and notice from the academic community and thought to look at autism from an anthropological point of view. The book spends a lot of time initially trying to explain why autism really isn't increasing. And though it does have some valid points, such as the fact that many older people are being diagnosed (having been misdiagnosed with other disorders in the past), there is really no believable way to explain away the fact that autis ...more
Sep 01, 2012 Sim rated it did not like it
The worst book on autism I have ever read. Biased, unproven "research", propoganda, and all the way through a sense of deep invalidation of those of us whose children have severe, disabling autism.. autism isn't a tragedy for HIM- HIS child is bilingual, winning awards. How can he possibly represent those of us with profoundly disabled children? How can he be arrogant enough to assume that he possibly could?
Jun 24, 2008 Ross rated it really liked it
I had to read this for class. I found it to be a great guide through the history of autism and provides a good explanation for the present state of diagnosis as well as discussing the effects an autism diagnosis has on the family. It is an excellent read for any parent or family member who may have a child recently diagnosed with autism.
Mar 31, 2008 Jon rated it it was amazing
Written from an anthropological viewpoint. While most books on Autism fall into either the dry textbook category of autism or the weepy emo category, this one strikes a nice balance. By far the best on the subject I've read to date (and I've read a few)
Ariane Zurcher
Jun 16, 2012 Ariane Zurcher rated it really liked it
Loved this book, an honest look at autism from an anthropological and tempered view, away from the hysteria.
Kaj Peters
Feb 07, 2016 Kaj Peters rated it it was ok
Autisme vooral voor de Amerikaanse wereld

Interessant hoe het de totstandkoming van westerse diagnostische terminologie gebruikt om het idee te verdedigen dat autisme niet vaker voorkomt dan vroeger. Voornamelijk relevant in relatie tot invloedrijke Amerikaanse anti-vaccinatie bewegingen, die op onwetenschappelijke gronden pleiten dat autismespectrumstoornissen beïnvloed kunnen worden door medische ingrepen. Gringer neemt een persoonlijke link met het onderwerp - zijn dochtertje Isabel heeft de d
Jan 18, 2013 Annie rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: teachers, school administrators, anyone who has enountered someone w/ autism
As a sophomore in college, I never thought I would read a nonfiction book about autism let alone love it. However, I really enjoyed reading Unstrange Minds, and I'm glad it was able to fall into my hands.

I liked how this book utilized a variety of disciplines to create a well-rounded view of autism. I appreciated its inclusion on the history of Leo Kanner and the creation of the term autism, and I found that the inclusion of the history of the DSM was informative and interesting as well. Additi
Apr 09, 2016 Lynley rated it really liked it
The author presents a good case for thinking of autism not as an 'epidemic' as evidence of increased knowledge about neurodiversity in the medical realm.

The first part of the book is a brief history of autism, which used to be blamed on mothers. You can thank Bruno Bettelheim for that, who by coincidence, I can't help reading about due to my interest in children's literature. I will never again be able to read a kidlit academic book without wanting to scratch out his name, because he is the one
Aug 06, 2009 Julie rated it really liked it
This is really two books. Part one methodically examines the current "autism epidemic." First, the author explains what an epidemic is, then he makes a very compelling argument that what is currently going on is not truly an epidemic, for several reasons. Basically, what's going on doesn't truly fit the definition of epidemic. At least not in the case of the increase in the incidence of autism. What's increased is our awareness of it, our more inclusive definition of it, and our ability to docum ...more
Jul 30, 2012 Rebecca rated it really liked it
Took some time to get through this book, but well worth it. I hesitated in Part I in regard to how timely this book may be since I, at least, already had an understanding that Autism is not an 'epedemic' but always has been. The author was thorough in explaining how the recognition of Autism has emerged from these children just being lumped under schizophrenia or mental retardation and how those classifications are all distinct. And, by comparing how other cultures arround the world handle Autis ...more
Sep 10, 2010 Andres rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: medical, school
Read this book for a medical anthropology class.

This is the first book about autism that I've read and I found it be an interesting one. Grinker presents a history of autism diagnoses, how autism is being perceived and treated in different parts of the world, and also about his own autistic daughter.

All in all it is a good introduction to autism and a great look at the history of psychology/psychiatry/mental illness (through the specific lens of autism). I only had one moment of uncertainty: whe
Sep 27, 2010 Sarah rated it it was amazing
My Review: It’s very refreshing to hear an optimistic, loving, nonjudgmental perspective from someone who is actually raising a child with autism. There are many reasons to feel stressed and, if you give in, you will find thousands more. As a social worker for children with autism and their families, I see first hand how easily parents can fall into the trap; desperation, guilt, shame, blame, depression, surrender. While parents are no where close to being responsible for their child’s autism, s ...more
Jan 11, 2010 swalterich rated it liked it
Shelves: 2010, autism
This is the best book on autism that I have read as it is obviously written by someone who has a good understanding of what autism is, as well as what it isn't. He puts to rest the idea that there is an 'epidemic' of autism and gives carefully researched answers to why this not occurring, as well as why is is believed in the general public to be such. His book is also a history of autism, as well as a history of the psychological theory and diagnosis of autism. We also meet autistic people all o ...more
Taylor Benge
Dec 09, 2013 Taylor Benge rated it really liked it
I thought this was a good book, but there were parts of it that were hard to get into. I like the book because it shows that a person diagnosed with autism is just as important in the world as someone not diagnosed with it. I think this would be a good TED Talk, because it goes into detail about the lives of families dealing with autism. It shows that even though things can be difficult, it doesn't change how important a person is. I also believe that nobody should be treated differently just be ...more
Silvio Curtis
Mar 14, 2009 Silvio Curtis rated it really liked it
The author is a Grinnell alumnus who gave a presentation earlier this year which I unfortunately couldn't attend. He's an anthropologist with a low-functioning autistic daughter. The first half of the book is about the history of the concept of autism, the second describes what the author was able to find out about how autistics and especially their families are viewed in several African and Asian countries, with a focus on moderate to low-functioning people with "classical autism". The main arg ...more
This is a great book for people interested in autism, but I wouldn't really recommend it for others, especially those who haven't done their own research on autism. The author is a bit biased when he summarizes the "epidemic" model, facilitated communication, and the overgeneralization of people on the spectrum. He admits that his daughter is not great at verbal communication, and then speculates on her thoughts. I also didn't appreciate the way he portrays himself as heroic - the whole "Mommy W ...more
Colin Milligan
Dec 30, 2008 Colin Milligan rated it really liked it
A really fascinating book which takes a high level view of Autism offering a fine historical perspective and unsentimental account of raising an autistic child.

One interesting thing about the book is the personal aspect - not the fact that his daughter is Autistic, but rather that his father was a ?psychiatrist, practicising at a time when children with Autism were routinely mis-diagnoes as childhood schizophrenics and given innappropriate treatment as a result.

The book was slightly let down by
Janet Leszl
Oct 11, 2008 Janet Leszl rated it really liked it
The perfect counterpoint to the emotional hysteria propagated by conspiracy theorists that are panicking parents into fear of vaccines inducing autism.

The author is an anthropologist and father of a daughter with autism. At times it is clear he is a professor; particularly in part one. Rational explanations of how individuals in the past would either have no diagnosis or improper ones are presented through his detailed history of the progression of the field of psychiatry. The information is bo
Connie  Kuntz
Nov 19, 2008 Connie Kuntz rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone Who Desires To Be Sensitive
Recommended to Connie by: It caught my eye when I was at the library.
This book provides excellent insight and theory into the art of diagnosing autism. It offers detailed global perspectives of mental situations. It also educated me about the Navajo experience in the Western U.S. This book appealed to me because it offered detail about autism, mental illness, schizophrenia, Aspergers, etc., rather than just to a contrived list of symptoms. I loved this book but I felt tremendous sadness as I read it. I feel like I can listen better because I read this book. If yo ...more
Nov 29, 2011 Gillian rated it really liked it
Shelves: autism, non-fiction
Grinker has done the world of autism a huge favour by writing this thick volume on how autism is seen in many different societies around the world - including South Africa.
He also includes his own family's experience with the condition and as an academic working in the field of anthropology, it is a useful, clear-sighted perspective.
Immensely worthwhile.
It also made me realise that although South Africa does not offer much in the way of state help, very few other countries really do either. Depr
Aug 25, 2012 Christine rated it it was amazing
Fascinating. Absolutely fascinating. A must-read for anyone seeking to understand autism more deeply. The author is an anthropologist and writes intelligently, but in a manner that is accessible to any reader.

The first section focuses on the history of autism in the U.S.A., looking at changing standards for diagnosis, changing cultural views and awareness, and changing forms of treatment. Additionally, the author makes a compelling argument that rates of autism have not changed, but that our dia
Aug 13, 2008 Barbara rated it it was amazing
If you are interested in autism, read this book. I recommend it without reservation. Grinker, the author, is a cultural anthropologist and a father of an autistic daughter. He applies his rigorous mind to a cross-cultural history and study of autism, especially to the question of whether there is currently an epidemic of the condition. He intersperses all this with relevant anecdotes about his daughter and their experiences with her. In the end, he achieves the difficult task of writing a book t ...more
Mary Sue
Feb 03, 2016 Mary Sue rated it it was amazing
I had to read this book for a Master's Degree class and while it started out a little slow for me, I ended up really enjoying the book. I learned more about the history of Autism and what it was like for parents than anything else I have read or found online. The challenges that the families of children with Autism faced just 10 years ago allowed me to obtain a better understanding of what it is like to have a child with Autism. Would recommend this book to anyone wanting to learn more about Aut ...more
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