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Strange Son Hardcover – December 28, 2006

52 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


Strange Son is a stunning book - at once passionate, provocative and profound. The power of this unique and compassionate story will restore hope to families and galvanize our scientific quest. -- Peter C. Whybrow, M.D., director of the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior and author of American Mania: When More Is Not Enough

Strange Son tells the story of Portia Iversen's journey through the halls of science, the new frontiers of the brain, and finally to a meeting with an extraordinary woman from India who was equally determined to show the world that her own autistic son was intelligent and so much more than his symptoms. Strange Son challenges many of our beliefs about autism and is lasting proof that there can be so much more on the inside than what is revealed by the outside. -- Bradley Whitford, actor

Faced with the challenging contradiction of great poetic gifts in a severely nonverbal autistic boy, Portia Iversen embarked on a passionate odyssey through science and scientists to unlock this 'Rosetta stone of autism' and to understand her own son, which led her to reframe autism as a profound mistiming of the senses. This is an important, beautifully written book that makes gripping reading. -- Martha Herbert, M.D., Neurologist, Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School

I know one little boy with autism pretty well. He can't tell me what he's thinking, but when I look into his sparkly brown eyes, I know that he is in there and that he's counting on us to help him get out. Portia Iversen's Strange Son is a wake-up call to the world that there are many more of these children than anyone ever knew, and that we must try a lot harder to find a way to connect with them. -- Anthony Edwards, actor

Love introduced two mothers, one who lived in India and the other in the United States. Their passion to seek health for their children, both afflicted by autism, brought the two women across continents and over oceans. Each stimulated the other with her fervor to find medical breakthroughs. Their story is exciting and uplifting. There is within Strange Son a sadness, but this in truth is a hopeful book. The mothers expect that medical research will find a solution for the cruelty of autism, and in Strange Son they show us that the lushness of family love continues to be the greatest therapy. -- Maya Angelou

Portia Iversen has used her eyes and ears to pierce the seemingly impenetrable armor of the autism puzzle, and Strange Son reflects the genius of her ability to observe and to listen, filing away in remarkable detail the life experiences of two boys who carry with them the essential clues for understanding the underlying disturbances in brain architecture and function that result in autism. -- Pat Levitt, Ph.D., director of the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center For Research on Human Development

Portia Iversen's personal experience led her from life as the parent of an autistic son to a leader in changing our outlook on this disorder and exploring its underlying cause. This is the story of her journey. -- John Mazziotta, M.D., Ph.D., chair, department of neurology, David Geffen School of Medicine, UCLA

About the Author

Portia Iversen, an Emmy Award-winning art director, has been a vigorous proponent of autism research since her son Dov was diagnosed with the condition in 1994. Together with her husband, Jon Shestack, she established the Cure Autism Now Foundation (CAN), one of the largest nongovernmental funding resources for autism research worldwide.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Riverhead Hardcover; 1 edition (December 28, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1573223115
  • ISBN-13: 978-1573223119
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.5 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (52 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,372,400 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

74 of 86 people found the following review helpful By Tito Rajarshi Mukhopadhyay on March 3, 2007
Format: Hardcover
The book `Strange Son' felt like a `slap' on my face from someone who mother and I trusted the most.

Overstimulation and puberty stage can be difficult for many like me. But getting recorded in a way like that, `hurts more than my Autism'.

`May the writer find whatever she seeks'.

My actions have been mentioned as 'beastly', 'alien being', 'possessed by a demon...'

On page 129: 'When I left the apartment, When I left their apartment that day I felt as if I'd glimpsed into the mind of an alien being'.

On page 116: "'Tired' was hardly an apt explanation for the extraordinary scene we had been witnessing ... where food was flying in every direction, accompanied by his odd grimacing sounds...";

Page 117, "I emailed Tito that same night and asked him why he behaved like that at the table, grabbing food and acting like a wild beast ...";

Page 126, "He dashed through the house and raced toward the fridge, the first stop on the terrible circuit he could not break free of. He flung open the refrigerator door and wildly rifled through its contents... `You'll never get a publisher with this kind of behavior!' I commented in a low voice";

Page 127, "Now it seemed as if Tito were possessed by a demon.";

I have nothing against the author. I have spent many happy moments with the author and really considered her to be a friend, trusting my actions would stay private with her. The graphic description is what hurts.

By the way, I `hand-write' and communicate/write my books (the Mind Tree, Gold of the Sunbeams, Beyond the Silence).
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26 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Cams TT on March 15, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Strange things can happen in life.

The involvement with the CAN foundation felt 'strange' to us when we lived in the US for the first year, after coming from India, with 'what on earth are we doing in this new country?' as we saw the fast life in LA.

But we got `used' to it.

Today when we are settled with friends (real friends) around, we know why we are here. We feel that we have a 'duty' to give back what we got in this wonderful country. Only the mission of HALO could give us that opportunity.

Mother and my mission is not 'future', but `present'.

`Prepare the present to face future', so that Autism becomes just an incidental `happening' like an accident of birth, and the `individual' person lives a life to the best potential, raising the head, saying to the world...'Autism? Perhaps I have it, what?'

A new life with a goal.

And we look `forward to' it.

It needed a different view, which no other organization CAN provide.

Regards to one and all,

Tito Rajarshi Mukhopadhyay

Does this add to the discussion? No.

I am 'using' someone else's platform to talk. (Just as someone else used my name to write StrangeSon!')
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22 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Al F. Porotesano on March 9, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I am an HFA. A High-Functioning Autistic Adult borderling with Aspergers. "Strange Son" is moving in the first 20 pages because it recalls how my mom and dad felt when they found out I was diagnosed with autism at age 3 or 4. Those 20 pages put me in tears just thinking about how my mom raised me through years of therapy, prayer and help and I am thankful for that. Having autism is a blessing - and a curse.

The next 80 pages afterwards is like a docudrama book that's perfect for a film script. Think of this as "I am Sam, the prequel". My Mom never frantically panicked in front of the child psychologist about autism. She prayed, fought and struggled to help me go through special education classes and weekend sessions at the Jay Nolan Center. As a kid, I've coped with other Autistics at my age. The difference between Portia and my Mom was that my mom didn't have the upscale networking connections and financial resources to have her husband gather a set of doctors to find a "cure" for autism. Worse, she assumes Tito's mother holds the Holy Grail for curing or treating her son as if Dov and Tito live in a parallel world and they can connect like brothers. I stopped reading the book before I reached the 100th page. Like a Hollywood movie, I predicted where this is going so it's not worth the effort to go further.

Whenever anyone compares treating autism like curing cancer to find an answer, which is the case in this book, It's insulting to Autistics like me. Autism is not a cursed disease of death.
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful By H. James on July 11, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I enjoyed reading this book. As a speech-language pathologist who has worked with, and advocated for, individuals on the autism spectrum for almost 20 years, I found many of Iversen's speculations about the mysteries of autism to be quite interesting. As a fan of Tito's and Soma's, however, I was disappointed with how they sometimes were portrayed. Iversen, who is obviously extremely knowledgeable in many areas, sometimes came across as insensitive and disrespectful toward Tito and Soma.

It was intriguing to read that many of the scientists who were introduced to Tito found it absolutely mind-boggling to believe that such a person could exist. They couldn't seem to grasp that a person who was viewed as essentially non-verbal and severely autistic could possibly communicate through writing. And yet, since the late '80's there have been many thousands of individuals with autism and other developmental disabilities all over the globe who have communicated effectively with Facilitated Communication (FC)--often describing their experiences with autism in words similar to those used so elegantly by Tito. Volumes of such writings are available. How is it that so many researchers/scientists are unaware of what these people have written? I found myself wishing Iversen would have said more about that. Is it possible that she is not aware of the similarities between FC and Soma's Rapid Prompt Method?

Despite these disappointments, I think the book is well worth reading. It will, hopefully, make many readers re-think their mistaken beliefs about autism, and come to recognize that not being able to speak does not mean one does not have intact "inner language". Soma has helped many to express their thoughts, as has FC. As an autistic friend of mine writes, we need to "Free the others"

H. James
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