A memoir of raising a daughter with autism and an anthropological and historical investigation into autism around the world, Unstrange Minds: Remapping the World of Autism draws upon Grinker's own experiences, those of families of children with autism in the United States, Korea, India and South Africa, and a variety of experts and caregivers.  Putting the story of autism into a historical, anthropological, and personal context, the book deals with hot-button topics - the question of an autism epidemic, of etiology, of treatments - with a careful, patient approach.


Grinker draws Unstrange Minds to a close with a discussion of visibility and invisibility.  How people with autism are seen, or not seen, depends upon so many factors.  When parents keep their children indoors for fear of neighbours' complaints or, worse, fearing a neighborhood protest that the presence of a disabled child in their midst would drop housing prices, when parents take their child to a new city to escape the condemnation of in-laws who blame them for the child's condition, when clinicians diagnose the children with insanity or a reactive attachment disorder, the child can become invisible - unseen, unheard, and unknown.  By looking at the history of autism and describing his own experiences with his daughter and the experiences of other parents around the world, Grinker shows how children with autism have become increasingly visible.  Families, professionals like child psychiatrist Leo Kanner, and cultural shifts create an environment where the children can be seen, heard, and known.

The book complements the first-person narratives of people like Temple Grandin or Kamran Nazeer in Send In The Idiots (see annotation), and that is the point: visibility and invisibility is not so much based on any single person or perspective but on social arrangements and collective agreements (whether coercive or not).  The explosion of visibility of autism is a consequence of improved technologies, changes in epidemiology and diagnostic practice, and parent advocacy, but also cultures - Grinker points to films such as Rain Man and, in Korea, Malaton - and the sociopolitical changes that accompany history.


Basic Books

Place Published

New York



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