Neurotribes wins the Samuel Johnson Prize

Allen & Unwin is delighted to announce that Steve Silbermanhas been named the winner of the 2015 Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction for his book Neurotribes: The Legacy of Autism and How to Think Smarter About People Who Think Differently.

Neurotribes chronicles the unique history of societal attitudes and responses to a developmental condition that affects millions of people across the globe. From the clinicians who discovered it, to the MMR vaccine controversy and today's 'neurodiversity' movement, Silberman charts the journey of this complex disorder and seeks to answer the baffling question of why there has been a massive rise in diagnoses.

Anne Applebaum, chair of judges, comments:

'Silberman's ground-breaking archival research lays out the intellectual history of the condition we now call "autism," tracing the evolution of the diagnosis from Nazi Vienna up until the present day, explaining how political and social context shaped scientific and medical perspectives. 

At the same time, Silberman's compassionate journalism explores the impact of popular culture on perceptions of autism, and the impact of autism on the families of those who live with it. As a writer of popular science, the first ever to win the Samuel Johnson prize, Silberman also excels at using stories and anecdotes to explain complex medical issues to a wide audience.

In the end, though, we admired Silberman’s work because it is powered by a strongly argued set of beliefs: That we should stop drawing sharp lines between what we assume to be "normal" and "abnormal," and that we should remember how much the differently-wired human brain has, can and will contribute to our world. He has injected a hopeful note into a conversation that's normally dominated by despair.  

Neurotribes is tour de force of archival, journalistic and scientific research, both scholarly and widely accessible. We are delighted to award it the 2015 Samuel Johnson Prize.'

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