...[a] brilliant and sparklingly humane book ... In its meandering but always colourful manner, the book weaves in to its medical history and host of modern case studies some more discursive sequences ... He also reminds us, rightly, that the language of illness is inescapably political.
As Silberman collects these compelling figures, he makes a quiet argument that autism has always been among us, that its features define one of the many dimensions of human potential. His book is never far from a human face, from a personal story that reminds the reader how much is at stake ... His book is a wide-ranging and authoritative history of autism. That history echoes through the lives of the many people affected by autism, and it will resonate with anyone whose experience registers outside narrowing definitions of normal.
...[an] ambitious, meticulous and largehearted (if occasionally long-winded) history ... The implications here are staggering: Had the definition included Asperger’s original, expansive vision, it’s quite possible we wouldn’t have been hunting for environmental causes or pointing our fingers at anxious parents. This is, without a doubt, a provocative argument that Silberman is making, one sure to draw plenty of pushback and anger. But he traces his history with scrupulous precision, and along the way he treats us to charming, pointillist portraits of historical figures who are presumed to have had Asperger’s ... His book drags in places. Almost every character who appears in NeuroTribes, no matter how minor, is supplied with a back story so long it reaches a vanishing point.
Weaving together cultural context and a rich cast of characters, Silberman casts the history of autism as a medical page-turner. By the end, as he describes how people with autism have sought to empower themselves, the book is as emotionally resonant as any this year.
If NeuroTribes favors the high end of the spectrum, giving the spotlight to those autistic people whose accomplishments are most recognizable to 'neurotypicals,' it also includes stories of otherwise unknown individuals and their families ... To read NeuroTribes is to realize how much autistic people have enriched the scope of human knowledge and diversity, and how impoverished the world would be without them. We neurotypicals get their story wrong at our peril.
Science journalist Steve Silberman's epic and often shocking history of autism challenges the idea that autism is an aberration or deficit. More controversial is his claim that neither is autism a 'unique disorder of our uniquely disordered times.' Instead, he champions what's come to be known as the 'neurodiversity movement,' which argues that autism is part of the continuum of being human and should be considered part of the valuable legacy of our genetic past ... If you like an author to get to the point, Silberman's book is not for you. He's a storyteller's storyteller, always taking the long way round, each anecdote presented with fulsome characters and plenty of rich historical detail. It's a delight to read, in other words, and after 500 or so pages, he left me wanting more. Everyone with an interest in the history of science and medicine — how it has failed us, surprised us and benefited us — should read this book.