Reviews - Media
Unstrange Minds Reviews and Media Coverage

Media Coverage
Washington Post
The Skeptical Inquirer
New Scientist
U.S. News & World Report
TIME Magazine
Guardian Unlimited
George Washington University Hatchet
Diane Rehm Show Interview on NPR
The Age of Autism: 'Unstrange Minds' By Dan Olmsted
Video Interview on CBS2 Chicago
The Huffington Post

From the issue dated May 11, 2007
The Chronicle of Higher Education

Is There an Autism Epidemic?


According to some advocates, an epidemic of autism is attacking young children and the government has been woefully negligent in dealing with it. But many epidemiologists dismiss the evidence used to support the idea of an epidemic. The debate has grown so ugly that researchers say they are being threatened if they question evidence of an upsurge in autism.

Autism Unveiled

From the issue dated May 11, 2007
The Chronicle of Higher Education

In a personal journey, an anthropologist charts how society -and his own family -deals with this increasingly common disorder


Roy Richard Grinker started his training in psychiatry before he hit puberty. As an 11-year-old growing up in Chicago , he spent Saturday afternoons getting his medical education at the home of his grandfather, a seminal figure in American psychiatry. In one-on-one seminars, the young boy learned how to diagnose manic depression and schizophrenia and how not to confuse the two - as some doctors were prone to do in the early 1970s. READ MORE>>


British Medical Journal
The Spectator
Sunday Express (UK)

From The Times (UK)

June 7, 2008
The autism epidemic cometh
Could the "autism epidemic" be something to celebrate?
Mark Henderson

Nature Medicine
Journal of Clinical Investigation
New England Journal of Medicine  
Psychiatric Services (American Psychiatric Association)

Psychiatr Serv 58:1019, July 2007
doi: 10.1176/
© 2007 American Psychiatric Association

Book Review
Unstrange Minds: Remapping the World of Autism
by Roy Richard Grinker; New York, Basic Books, 2006, 340 pages, $26.95

Yael Dvir, M.D.

Unstrange,"a neologism coined by the poet E. E. Cummings, is very appropriately used in the title of this book. As Roy Richard Grinker states in his introduction, "the process of understanding autism itself parallels the work that anthropologists do, since the minds of people with autism are sometimes as hard to understand as foreign cultures." Grinker is a professor of anthropology at George Washington University and is interested in the intersection between culture and illness. He is also the father of a daughter with autism.

People Magazine

Feb. 5, 2007
Reviewed by Michelle Green

When their daughter Isabel reached her second birthday without being able to speak well or sustain eye contact, anthropologist Grinker and his wife suspected she was autistic. A stigmatized disorder then conflated with schizophrenia or mental retardation, autism was poorly understood in '94, and a proper diagnosis was elusive. 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."

USA TODAY Review of Unstrange Minds

In an Autism "Round-up" published on February 19, 2007, USA TODAY critic Deirdre Donahue examined five new books that deal with autism.
Unstrange Minds: Remapping the World of Autism

By Roy Richard Grinker

Basic Books, 340 pp.

Hands down, Unstrange Minds is the most useful book of the bunch for anyone who is interested in learning more about autism. The father of an autistic teenage daughter, Grinker is also a professor of anthropology at George Washington University. He skillfully combines his daughter Isabel's story with an accessible historical and cultural examination of how people with autism have been diagnosed and treated in the USA and around the world. Autism is seen as a range of problems that involve impairments in three areas: social interaction, communication and imagination. He writes, "They are so variable in their severity that one person with autism might be profoundly mentally retarded and totally non-verbal while another might be a physics professor." Grinker convincingly argues that the "autism epidemic"
is actually the result of more accurate detection by doctors and schools.

Unstrange Minds: Remapping the World of Autism by Roy Richard Grinker Basic Books: 2007. 304 pp. $26

NATURE|Vol 446|8 March 2007 BOOKS & ARTS
Lorna Wing

The term ‘autism’ was coined by Leo Kanner in 1943 as a label for a disordered pattern of behaviour present from infancy that he and his colleague Leon Eisenberg had observed. They defined it very narrowly, as a profound lack of affective contact with other people, combined with an obsessive desire for the preservation of ‘sameness’ that results in elaborate, repetitive routines.

In Unstrange Minds, Roy Grinker combines his experiences as an anthropologist and as a father of a teenage daughter with autism, Isabel, to provide a fresh view of the challenges posed by this condition. He interweaves three themes: first, the evolution of ideas about the nature of autism and the effect of these changes on studies of prevalence; second, the intimate connection between cultural attitudes to autism and the quality of life for those affected and their families; and third, the story of his own daughter’s development and the struggles that he and his wife have experienced in the United States to ensure that Isabel has the support and education she needs. READ MORE>>

Lorna Wing is honorary consultant psychiatrist at the Centre for Social and Communication Disorders, 113 Masons Hill, Bromley, Kent BR2 9HT, UK. The changing view of autism P. MICHELSON 141 NATURE|Vol 446|8 March 2007 BOOKS & ARTS

Boston Globe
Globe and Mail
Irish Times Review March 20, 2007

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.

—Publishers Weekly


JANUARY 15, 2007

*Grinker, Roy Richard. Unstrange Minds: Remapping the World of Autism. Basic Bks: Perseus. Feb. 2007. c.304p. ISBN 0-465-02763-6 [ISBN 978-0-465-02763-7]. $26. PSYCH

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 Enigma as one of the great general books on autism. Highly recommended.

Corey Seeman, Univ. of Michigan Lib., Ann Arbor

Unstrange Minds by Roy Richard Grinker
The Word

Parents of autistic children might be wise to stop looking for someone to blame, said Sarah Fay in Time Out Chicago. In this persuasive work, anthropologist Roy Richard Grinker lays out evidence that the so-called autism epidemic is a myth. Grinker, the father of an autistic teenager, argues that shifting definitions and increased incentives for doctors to make the diagnosis caused this dramatic spike in autism rates. His skillfully crafted survey "should be required reading" for anyone who's been touched by the resulting panic.

Autism Society of North Carolina Bookstore c2007.

By Roy Richard Grinker. Drawing on his experience and knowledge as an anthropologist, a son and grandson of early American psychiatrists, the husband of a psychiatrist who studies medical anthropology, and the father of a daughter with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), the author weaves a fascinating tale of the true history of autism. He argues that the history of ASD cannot be separated from the history of Western psychiatry, and shows vividly just how much culture and social attitudes affected the course of ASD as a valid diagnosis in the U.S. He compares the ways ASD is viewed in different modern-day cultures around the world, and how this affects the rates of diagnosis and treatment for individuals with ASD in those countries. The common thread in every country seems to be that the greater the level of awareness in the general community, the better the options for and attitudes toward autism are, though overcoming the social barriers to that awareness is often very difficult. Clearly, however, with more accurate information on the prevalence of autism worldwide coming to light all the time, the future for families affected by ASD looks continually brighter. Exceptionally well written and accessible to any audience, this book not only reveals ASD in a new light, but also emphasizes just how much of an influence our cultural lens can have. (Hardcover; 340 pages.)

Left Brain/Right Brain Review
Time Out Chicago

Medscape Pediatrics.  2007; (c)2007 Medscape
Posted 02/07/2007

Review of Unstrange Minds

By Howard Markel, MD, PhD, George E. Wantz Professor of the History of
Medicine, Professor of Pediatrics and Communicable Diseases, Director of the
Center for the History of Medicine, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor;
author of When Germs Travel: Six Major Epidemics and the Fears They Have
Unleashed (Pantheon Books)

AHA newsletter, On the Spectrum  (Spring issue 2007).

Unstrange Minds; Remapping the World of Autism

by Roy Richard Grinker
reviewed by Enid Gort, PhD.

Scientists, parents, clinicians, educators, friends and family members of children on the autism spectrum would all benefit from reading Unstrange Minds: Remapping the World of Autism. A  better idea would be that everyone read this book because it examines, in a scientifically rigorous and profoundly moving way, a range of conditions much of the world is currently attempting to understand.      

Written by Roy Richard Grinker, a professor of anthropology at George Washington University, the  book intersperses a cross-cultural perspective - one that examines children struggling with autism in societies other than our own - with a highly personal one.  Dr. Grinker is also the parent of a daughter with autism and it is his experience and that of his family that infuses the book with such great insight, warmth, and wisdom. For example, in one of its most intimate and instructive moments, Grinker describes a confrontation he and his wife had with school system administrators reluctant to provide the educational supports best suited to their daughter's special needs. The dialogue reads like a script, one parents might want to keep in mind when called to advocate for services for their child.

Club 166
Spiked:Whats behind the autism epidemic?
by Dr Michael Fitzpatrick
©2007 Roy Richard Grinker