Two histories of autism, one by an outsider, one by an insider
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Adam Feinstein A History of Autism: Conversations with the Pioneers. Wiley-Blackwell, Chichester, West Sussex, UK, and Malden, MA, 2010, pp. xv+391, $42.92, ISBN: 978-1405186537
Chloe Silverman Understanding Autism: Parents, Doctors, and the History of a Disorder. Princeton University Press, Princeton, 2010, pp. x+340, $29.28, ISBN: 978-0691150468
Two very different books, both packed with information, and both called histories. The subtitles are essential. Feinstein's Conversationsis closer to hagiography than history, and is none the worse for that. He really has chatted with almost every major living contributor, and in the case of the dead has interviewed younger men and women who were their collaborators or at any rate acquainted. And a bonus: 83 passport-size photos of the protagonists. Like the best hagiographies, there is the occasional villain, in this case Bruno Bettelheim, who gets a more nuanced and informative treatment by Silverman. He is often dismissed as an ogre or...
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