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Strange Son Hardcover – December 28, 2006

3.8 out of 5 stars 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: #893,025 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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,.....so 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!')
1 Comment 26 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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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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Format: Kindle Edition
[Note: Copied from my review on goodreads. Quotes are from an ARC]

This is a hard book to review. My review is VERY long. On the plus side, if you read the entire thing (much of which is quotes), you'll never have to read the book.

There is excellent information in here about the autistic experience and stunning insights into how the autistic mind works (much of it given by Tito and Soma, but a lot explained by Iverson herself)... But it must come with a strong warning.

The entire book is horribly marred by the narrow-minded intolerance with which the author approaches autism and autistic people. She is like a bird researcher who, discovering penguins, bemoans that they cannot fly and refuses to see that there is anything beautiful and valuable in them.

This book is compellingly written-- clear language, tidy narrative, good pacing. For that reason, too, I want to warn autism parents away, lest they get swept up and begin to sympathize with the dehumanizing viewpoint.

I'll go over the problems first, then the helpful stuff. Sensitive readers may want to skip straight to the "good" section.

*** THE BAD ***

I admit, I came to actually hate Portia Iverson as a person. To be fair, she starts at a disadvantage-- knowing almost nothing about autism, and all of it completely wrong. The doctor who diagnoses Dov advises her and her husband to "hold on to each other and cry. Get on with your lives" (p 11), and with appalling advice like that, I can see why she would assume autism to be a horrible thing... especially since the next "expert" she turns to is the infamous Lovaas. But her understanding never changes, in spite of all her experiences.
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