Unstrange Minds – UK release

5 Jun

I wrote about Unstrange Minds in 2006 when it was first published in the US only.

Cover of Unstrange Minds

It gives me huge pleasure to note that Icon Books have now released the UK version (also available on Amazon UK.

I loved Unstrange Minds unreservedly. Professor Grinker sent me a galley copy to read before it was published and I read it in a couple of weeks worth of train journeys to and from my workplace. So absorbed was I that I very nearly missed my stop more than once.

Its a book about two things. Firstly it is a Fathers paen to his autistic daughter. The love and respect he has for his daughter permeates every single page. It is clear that he finds his daughter fascinating and wonderful. Through the pages, we do too.

Secondly, it is a book about the ‘autism epidemic’ or rather the lack thereof.

The shift in how we view autism….is part of a broader set of shifts taking place in society.

Grinker goes on to take the reader through the often fascinating history of autism as a diagnostic label (Kanner is pronounced ‘connor’ – who knew??) to illustrate his theory of the apparent rise in autism prevalence being intrinsically linked to these cultural changes such as the growth in child psychology as an area of practice, the decline of psychoanalysis, the rise of advocacy organisations, greater public awareness to educational needs and change in pubic policies:

Doctors now have a more heightened awareness of autism and are diagnosing it with more frequency, and public schools….which first started using the category of autism during the 1991 – 1992 school year are reporting it more often….Epidemiologists are also counting it better.

One of the most fascinating parts of the book for me was Grinker’s exploration of autism in non-Westernised cultures such as South Africa and Korea. In some ways it was like reading about how autism was viewed here 20 years ago.

When [Milal School] was being built in the mid-1990s, some of the wealthy residents of this quiet neighborhood south of the Kangnam River in Seoul picketed the site, cut the school’s phone lines, physically assaulted school administrators, and filed a lawsuit to halt construction, because they believed that the presence in the neighborhood of children with disabilities would lower property values. The school opened in 1997, but only with a compromise. It was required to alter its architecture so that the children were completely hidden from public view. Some of the protestors were brutally honest. They said they didn’t want their children to see or meet a child with autism.

That seems (and is) outrageous to us but 20 years ago I can easily imagine this happening in the West. One only has to look at the recent experiences of Alex Barton to see how quickly the West can regress to barbarism.

I can’t recommend this book highly enough. Go buy it now.

5 Responses to “Unstrange Minds – UK release”

  1. farmwifetwo June 5, 2008 at 13:19 #

    Loved the book. After reading the library copy I bought my own.

    Currently reading “The Mislabeled Child” and “Blessings of the skinned knee”. I’m not Jewish but Blessings is for anyone.

  2. Bunny June 5, 2008 at 14:53 #

    Unstrange Minds is the best book on autism I have read yet. I much prefer the UK cover to the US cover, which shows a boy running off alone into nothingness. My husband makes fun of the standard covers for “autism books”–they invariably show some poor kid looking “lost” and/or miserable. The only book with a smiling kid seems to be Jenny McCarthy’s, and I guess that’s because her kid is, you know, cured.

  3. Socrates June 5, 2008 at 17:30 #

    Yeah Kev, I can relate to being hidden from public view, lurking in the shadows, while the rest of the world goes about its business averting its gaze. I use to be in a special needs class in the early seventies. Looking back on it, maybe 60% of the kids were unlabled autistics.

  4. Michelle Dawson June 5, 2008 at 20:48 #

    Morton Ann Gernsbacher reviewed Unstrange Minds here.

  5. Navi June 22, 2008 at 15:21 #

    I do prefer the UK cover, but didn’t see the US cover as negative, but maybe that’s because I’ve taken similar pics of my son…

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