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A Disability History of the United States
The first book to cover the entirety of disability history, from pre-1492 to the present By placing the experiences of people with disabilities at the center of the American story,A Disability History of the United Statesfundamentally reinterprets how we view our nation's past. Throughout the book Kim Nielsen illustrates how concepts of disability have deeply shaped the American experience-from deciding who was allowed to immigrate to establishing labor laws and justifying slavery and gender discrimination. The book abounds with compelling stories pulled from primary documents and social histories to retell American history through the eyes, words, and impressions of the people who lived it. Included are absorbing-at times horrific-narratives of blinded slaves being thrown overboard and women being involuntarily sterilized, as well as triumphant accounts of miners organizing strikes and disability rights activists marching on Washington. Engrossing and revelatory,A Disability History of the United Statesreconstructs our nation's story-from a narrow master narrative to a shared history that encompasses us all.
This impressive, instructive book by Nielsen, a professor of history and women's studies at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay (The Radical Lives of Helen Keller), seeks to define the pivotal role of people with disabilities in our nation's past and their contribution to our laws, policy, economics, popular culture, and our collective identity. Disability, with its presumed need for dependency, challenges the American ideal of independence and autonomy. Nielsen uses various concepts of disability and dependency that go to "the heart of both human and American experience." She accurately notes the difference of mind-body beliefs of the Native Americans from the Europeans who brought disease and death with them; the colonial definition of those considered insane or undesirable; and the many institutions housing the disabled. Nielsen does not sidestep the thorny issue of disabled war veterans, from the Revolutionary War through the Civil War to the present, with their surging costs and advances of laws protecting the rights of the disabled and guaranteeing accessibility in civilian life. Neilsen is at her best speaking not about the physically disabled and mentally ill, but of the legal and social barricades placed against women, minorities, and immigrants, who were classified "disabled" and blocked from full citizenship. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
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October 01, 2012
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