GENIE by Russ Rymer


An Abused Child's Flight from Silence
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 A compelling account by journalist Rymer (The New Yorker, The New York Times, etc.) of a modern-day ``wild child'' so deprived of human contact that when she was found at age 13 she was virtually without language--making her a prize subject for scientific study. From birth until she was discovered in 1970, ``Genie'' (a pseudonym) had been cruelly confined by her father to a small back room of her parents' house in California's San Gabriel Valley. Once found, she was cared for initially at a children's hospital and then transferred temporarily to the home of her teacher at the hospital's rehab center. Although the teacher applied to become Genie's foster parent, the social-services department that acted as the child's guardian refused consent, and for the next four years Genie lived in the home of David Rigler, chief psychologist of the hospital's psychiatric division. Scientists from various disciplines competed fiercely for access to the girl, among them linguists hoping to prove or disprove theories about how the human brain acquires language. The outcome was not a happy one for Genie. When Rigler's research grant ran out, the child moved back briefly with her mother and then into a series of inappropriate foster homes, eventually ending up in a home for retarded adults, out of the scientists' reach. Although Rymer never met Genie--who eventually disappeared--he tracked down and interviewed many of those most closely involved in caring for or studying her. Their versions of what happened and what went wrong vary, but that Genie was exploited is beyond doubt. Along the way, the author packs in a fair amount of information on linguistics and language development. An eye-opening account of science gone awry and a life gone amiss.

Pub Date: April 14th, 1993
ISBN: 0-06-016910-9
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 1993


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