Author: John Donovan, Caren Zucker
Publisher: Broadway Books
Publishing Date: 2016
Finalist for the 2017 Pulitzer Prize in General Nonfiction
An extraordinary narrative history of autism: the riveting story of parents fighting for their children 's civil rights; of doctors struggling to define autism; of ingenuity, self-advocacy, and profound social change
Near seventy-five years ago, Donald Triplett of Forest, Mississippi, became the first child diagnosed with autism. Beginning with his family's odyssey, In a Different Key tells the extraordinary story of this often misunderstood condition, and of the civil rights battles waged by the families of those who have it. Unfolding over decades, it is a beautifully rendered history of ordinary people determined to secure a place in the world for those with autism--by liberating children from dank institutions, campaigning for their right to go to school, challenging expert opinion on what it means to have autism, and persuading society to accept those who are different.
It is the story of women like Ruth Sullivan, who rebelled against a medical establishment that blamed cold and rejecting "refrigerator mothers" for causing autism; and of fathers who pushed scientists to dig harder for treatments. Many others played starring roles too: doctors like Leo Kanner, who pioneered our understanding of autism; lawyers like Tom Gilhool, who took the families' battle for education to the courtroom; scientists who sparred over how to treat autism; and those with autism, like Temple Grandin, Alex Plank, and Ari Ne'eman, who explained their inner worlds and championed the philosophy of neurodiversity.
This is also a story of fierce controversies--from the question of whether there is truly an autism "epidemic," and whether vaccines played a part in it; to scandals involving "facilitated communication," one of many treatments that have proved to be blind alleys; to stark disagreements about whether scientists should pursue a cure for autism. There are dark turns too: we learn about experimenters feeding LSD to children with autism, or shocking them with electricity to change their behavior; and the authors reveal compelling evidence that Hans Asperger, discoverer of the syndrome named after him, participated in the Nazi program that consigned disabled children to death.
By turns intimate and panoramic, In a Different Key takes us on a journey from an era when families were shamed and children were condemned to institutions to one in which a cadre of people with autism push not simply for inclusion, but for a new understanding of autism: as difference rather than disability.
(From the book)
John Donvan is a multiple Emmy Award-winning correspondent for ABC and the moderator of the Intelligence Squared US debate series. Caren Zucker is a Peabody Award-winning television news journalist, a twenty-five year veteran of ABCV News, nad a producer and co-writer of hte six part PBS series Autism Now.
For people who desire to know about autism but who are looking more for a "lay" read rather than something technical and mechanical filled with jargon, then this is the right book, despite 600+ pages the book and the story are compelling, inspiring, and eye opening as well as advocating for people with autism to be treated with dignity and respect. The history of autism is fascinating, from its humble beginnings in 1930s to today when it seems that everyone knows of autism and aspergers. What is also inspiring are the parents who advocated for their children, be it insistence on attending schools, to keeping them away from institutions to convincing scientists and others to focus a lot more on organic causes of autism. There is also a lot of empathy shown for people in the book for dealing with the diagnosis of autism and including a lot of memorable and personal anecdotes behind the diagnosis of autism. For a wonderful and enlightening medical read, choose this book and gain a perspectie and what seems to be an insider's view towards autism such as view between autism and Asperger's, and different stories and movements that sprang up in autism's name.
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5 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)