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Saturday, August 29, 2015

NeuroTribes Review

A couple of months back, I was sent an email asking whether I wanted a free copy of Steve Silberman's NeuroTribes.  Being something of a book hoarder, I really couldn't refuse.  I've been looking forward to reading this book since I've heard of it coming out, and offered to write a review.  So, for the sake of transparency, all I've gotten out of this is a free book and a voluntary obligation to write a review.

Cause I want to talk about this book. I really want to talk about this book.  This book deserves to be talked about.

I got my copy, oh, a week or so back, I think. Early August. (Yeah, I'm bad on time)  It took me some time to work up the nerve to open it, and then it took me longer than I expected to read it.  It is a subtly and surprisingly packed narrative written in and around various mini-biographies, following a single thread throughout history: the diagnosis of Autism as we know it.

I feel like there was a lot of material that Silberman has been working through, and chose his words with care to say the most, to show instead of tell.  It is a rich weaving of history, some of it painful and dark, and does not shy away from that.  Some of this I knew about beforehand, as part of my own experiences researching and being a part of Autism history, and some of it I could only guess.  I know that for those who are not prepared, it can be very disturbing.  Even prepared, the stories shared in NeuroTribes can be disturbing.

Silberman covers a lot in the pages, including treatments used on us, the theories prescribed about us, and how there is this fight to recognize autistic people, all autistic people, as autistic.  Complete with how such things like a diagnosis impacts individuals, and a glimpse into the beginnings of autistic culture, both before and after the advent of the Internet.

But this is our history.  And this is probably not the last book on Autism history, but is only a part of our past.  No, as I'm sure many of my community will agree with me, it is not complete.  This is a slice of where we've been, condensed into a nearly 500-page book (the epilogue ends at page 477).  That couldn't have been easy.  Especially since I know there is a lot more material that Silberman has from writing NeuroTribes, waiting to written and shared with the world.

Most importantly, there are parts that I didn't know about, new information about our history, indications and answers to that ever so annoying question "where are the autistic adults?" As Silberman shows, we have always been here, in the past, in the present, and in the future.  After all, some of those incomplete chapters, aren't we still writing those?

Let's go make the next volume of Autism history!