Damnation Island by Stacy Horn
Poor, Sick, Mad, and Criminal in 19th-Century New York

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Horn engagingly explores a history that, perhaps surprisingly, extended into the 1960s, when the renamed island became a site for mixed-income housing.
-Kirkus

Synopsis

“A riveting character-driven dive into 19th-century New York and the extraordinary history of Blackwell’s Island.”
—Laurie Gwen Shapiro, author of The Stowaway: A Young Man’s Extraordinary Adventure to Antarctica

On a two-mile stretch of land in New York’s East River, a 19th-century horror story was unfolding . . .

Today we call it Roosevelt Island. Then, it was Blackwell’s, site of a lunatic asylum, two prisons, an almshouse, and a number of hospitals. Conceived as the most modern, humane incarceration facility the world ever seen, Blackwell’s Island quickly became, in the words of a visiting Charles Dickens, “a lounging, listless madhouse.”

In the first contemporary investigative account of Blackwell’s, Stacy Horn tells this chilling narrative through the gripping voices of the island’s inhabitants, as well as the period’s officials, reformers, and journalists, including the celebrated Nellie Bly. Digging through city records, newspaper articles, and archival reports, Horn brings this forgotten history alive: there was terrible overcrowding; prisoners were enlisted to care for the insane; punishment was harsh and unfair; and treatment was nonexistent.

Throughout the book, we return to the extraordinary Reverend William Glenney French as he ministers to Blackwell’s residents, battles the bureaucratic mazes of the Department of Correction and a corrupt City Hall, testifies at salacious trials, and in his diary wonders about man’s inhumanity to man. In Damnation Island, Stacy Horn shows us how far we’ve come in caring for the least fortunate among us—and reminds us how much work still remains.
 

About Stacy Horn

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Stacy Horn is the author of four nonfiction books. Bestselling author Mary Roach has hailed her for “combining awe-fueled curiosity with topflight reporting skills.” Her commentaries have been heard on NPR’s All Things Considered, and she is the founder of the social network Echo. She lives and sings in New York. Her website is www.stacyhorn.com.
 
Published May 15, 2018 by Algonquin Books. 304 pages
Genres: Health, Fitness & Dieting, History, Professional & Technical, Political & Social Sciences, Travel, Crime. Non-fiction
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Kirkus

Above average
on Jun 06 2018

Horn engagingly explores a history that, perhaps surprisingly, extended into the 1960s, when the renamed island became a site for mixed-income housing.

Read Full Review of Damnation Island: Poor, Sick,... | See more reviews from Kirkus

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