A well-told, richly contextualized investigation of an appalling episode in American history.

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EUGENICS AND THE MAKING OF MODERN VIRGINIA

The author of What You Are Getting Wrong About Appalachia (2018) returns with a history of Virginia’s eugenics movement and its interconnections with racial, gender, and class prejudices.

In this grounded, well-rendered, and highly disturbing account, Catte examines the period from the late 1920s to 1979 at the Western State Lunatic Asylum. It was, she writes, “a long era in the history of psychiatric medicine when therapeutic efforts primarily focused on containment and control, not care or cure.” As part of the eugenics movement, Western State advanced its purity-of-race ideology, which taught that people with disabilities—and the just plain poor—were expensive social burdens. They were viewed as a disorderly class populated by “undesirables.” Proponents of this concept were worried that the “unfit” would reproduce and create an ongoing social debt that could never be repaid. With justified outrage backed by copious archival evidence, Catte describes the process by which Virginia made eugenic sterilization legal. Importantly, the author also demonstrates how practitioners of eugenics did more than just sterilize the mentally ill and those who were not considered “pure.” They also advanced the cause of White supremacy, controlled anti-establishment women, and exploited the impoverished. The movement created a comprehensive, hateful belief system about the kinds of lives that marginalized people deserved. Catte details the dire consequences for a whole galaxy of “mongrels”—a reprehensible classification that included immigrants from southern and eastern Europe, Blacks, poor Whites, and Native Americans—from the illegalization of intermarriage (“when interbreeding between two races occurred, the worst traits always became the dominant traits”) to the displacement of more than 500 families to create Shenandoah National Park. The author closes by examining the suppression of memory as it pertains to the thousands of sterilizations that occurred as well as Western State’s use of patients for free labor.

A well-told, richly contextualized investigation of an appalling episode in American history.

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-948742-73-3

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Belt Publishing

Review Posted Online: Nov. 21, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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A top-notch political memoir and serious exercise in practical politics for every reader.

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A PROMISED LAND

In the first volume of his presidential memoir, Obama recounts the hard path to the White House.

In this long, often surprisingly candid narrative, Obama depicts a callow youth spent playing basketball and “getting loaded,” his early reading of difficult authors serving as a way to impress coed classmates. (“As a strategy for picking up girls, my pseudo-intellectualism proved mostly worthless,” he admits.) Yet seriousness did come to him in time and, with it, the conviction that America could live up to its stated aspirations. His early political role as an Illinois state senator, itself an unlikely victory, was not big enough to contain Obama’s early ambition, nor was his term as U.S. Senator. Only the presidency would do, a path he painstakingly carved out, vote by vote and speech by careful speech. As he writes, “By nature I’m a deliberate speaker, which, by the standards of presidential candidates, helped keep my gaffe quotient relatively low.” The author speaks freely about the many obstacles of the race—not just the question of race and racism itself, but also the rise, with “potent disruptor” Sarah Palin, of a know-nothingism that would manifest itself in an obdurate, ideologically driven Republican legislature. Not to mention the meddlings of Donald Trump, who turns up in this volume for his idiotic “birther” campaign while simultaneously fishing for a contract to build “a beautiful ballroom” on the White House lawn. A born moderate, Obama allows that he might not have been ideological enough in the face of Mitch McConnell, whose primary concern was then “clawing [his] way back to power.” Indeed, one of the most compelling aspects of the book, as smoothly written as his previous books, is Obama’s cleareyed scene-setting for how the political landscape would become so fractured—surely a topic he’ll expand on in the next volume.

A top-notch political memoir and serious exercise in practical politics for every reader.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6316-9

Page Count: 768

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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