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Damnation Island





Publication Information

Algonquin Books


"Enthralling; it is well worth the trip." --New York Journal of Books Conceived as the most modern, humane incarceration facility the world had ever seen, New York's Blackwell's Island, site of a lunatic asylum, two prisons, an almshouse, and a number of hospitals, quickly became, in the words of a visiting Charles Dickens, "a lounging, listless madhouse." Digging through city records, newspaper articles, and archival reports, Stacy Horn tells a gripping narrative through the voices of the island's inhabitants. We also hear from the era's officials, reformers, and journalists, including the celebrated undercover reporter Nellie Bly. And we follow 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 his fellow man. Damnation Island shows how far we've come in caring for the least fortunate among us-and reminds us how much work still remains. Stacy Horn is the author of five previous nonfiction books, including Imperfect Harmony. Mary Roach has hailed her for "combining awe-fueled curiosity with topflight reporting skills." Horn's commentaries have been heard on NPR's All Things Considered, and she is the founder of the social network Echo. She lives in New York City. Her website is stacyhorn.com. "In her fine new book . . . Stacy Horn lucidly, and not without indignation, documents the island's bleak history, detailing the political and moral failures that sustained this hell, failures still evident today in the prison at Rikers Island." -The New York Times Book Review "Fast moving and entrenched in detail . . . History buffs will be terrified by what occurred [at Blackwell's Island] a century ago." -BUST "Horn creates a vivid and at times horrifying portrait of Blackwell's Island (today's Roosevelt Island) in New York City's East River during the late 19th century . . . Horn has created a bleak but worthwhile depiction of institutional failure, with relevance for persistent debates over the treatment of the mentally ill and incarcerated." -Publishers Weekly "This is an essential-and heartbreaking-book for readers seeking to better understand contemporary public policy." -Booklist, starred review "[A] fascinating look at a piece of nearly forgotten New York City history-one that will make you thankful for modern conveniences." -Mental Floss (Best Books of 2018) "Horn engagingly explores a history that, perhaps surprisingly, extended into the 1960s." -Kirkus Reviews "Having reviewed a seemingly endless array of archival materials, Horn brings this subject to light in stunning detail. Readers will instantly see how this history continues to haunt us, as the boundaries between the four classes of people on the island (the poor, the mad, the sick and the criminal) are, in the public imagination, as blurred as ever." -BookPage   "Teeter-tottering between a history textbook and a murder mystery, Stacy Horn's Damnation Island is fast moving and entrenched in detail . . . What's even more horrifying-it's all real . . . These days, the island is a residential community dotted with scenic parks and landmarks. But history buffs will be terrified by what occurred there a century ago." -Brianne KaneforBUST    "A stunning examination of bureaucracy gone wrong, and the evolution of the place we now call Roosevelt Island." -Salon "Stacy Horn has done a commendable job by shedding light on the dark corners of our history. Damnation Island is a book of history written like a novel. Every American needs to read it." -The Washington Book Review   "Stacy Horn's history of Blackwell's Island is a shocking tale, and an invaluable account t


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