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0 out of 50 out of 50 out of 50 out of 50 out of 5 0.00 (0 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Adam Cohen Narrator: Dan Woren Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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One of America’s great miscarriages of justice, the Supreme Court’s infamous 1927 Buck v. Bell ruling made government sterilization of “undesirable” citizens the law of the land.

New York Times bestselling author Adam Cohen tells the story in Imbeciles of one of the darkest moments in the American legal tradition: the Supreme Court’s decision to champion eugenic sterilization for the greater good of the country. In 1927, when the nation was caught up in eugenic fervor, the justices allowed Virginia to sterilize Carrie Buck, a perfectly normal young woman, for being an “imbecile.”

It is a story with many villains, from the superintendent of the Dickensian Virginia Colony for Epileptics and Feebleminded who chose Carrie for sterilization to the former Missouri agriculture professor and Nazi sympathizer who was the nation’s leading advocate for eugenic sterilization. But the most troubling actors of all were the eight Supreme Court justices who were in the majority – including William Howard Taft, the former president; Louis Brandeis, the legendary progressive; and Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., America’s most esteemed justice, who wrote the decision urging the nation to embark on a program of mass eugenic sterilization.

Exposing this tremendous injustice—which led to the sterilization of 70,000 Americans—Imbeciles overturns cherished myths and reappraises heroic figures in its relentless pursuit of the truth. With the precision of a legal brief and the passion of a front-page exposé, Cohen’s Imbeciles is an unquestionable triumph of American legal and social history, an ardent accusation against these acclaimed men, and our own optimistic faith in progress.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “The book provides a stark portrait of the resilient eugenics movement—and a welcome warning about its sinister appeal.”

    Jeffrey Toobin, New York Times bestselling author

  • “Provides a superb history of eugenics in America, from its beginnings as an offshoot of social Darwinism—human survival of the fittest—to its rise as a popular movement.”

    New York Times Book Review (cover review)

  • "Imbeciles leaves you wondering whether it can happen here—again.”

    Minneapolis Star Tribune

  • “Cohen mostly lets the facts speak for themselves…[The book’s] considerable power lies in Cohen’s closer examination of the principal actors.”

    Boston Globe

  • “Cohen’s narrative of the legal case that enshrined these practices is a page turner, and the story it tells is deeply, almost physically, infuriating.”

    New Republic

  • Imbeciles is lively, accessible and, inevitably, often heart-wrenching.”

    Nature

  • “Combines an investigative journalist’s instinct for the misuse of power, a lawyer’s analytic abilities, and a historian’s eye for detail to tell this compelling and emotional story.”

    Los Angeles Review of Books

  • “Searing…In this important book, Cohen not only illuminates a shameful moment in American history…he also tracks the landmark case’s repercussions up to the present.”

    Booklist (starred review)

  • “A shocking tale about science and law gone horribly wrong, an almost forgotten case that deserves to be ranked with Dred Scott, Plessy, and Korematsu as among the Supreme Court’s worst decisions.”

    Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

  • “Illustrates society’s treatment of the poor, of minorities and immigrants, and other populations considered ‘undesirable’…This thought-provoking work exposes a dark chapter of American legal history.”

    Library Journal

  • “Dan Woren’s deep but gentle voice guides listeners through the complicated and baffling events…Woren’s emphasis and timing aid listeners in understanding difficult passages. He emotionally charges the quotes when necessary, while at other times, holding back to focus largely on the story. In exploring this historical tragedy, the author sometimes exhibits a tone of disbelief, which Woren projects clearly.”

    AudioFile

  • A New York Times Editor’s Choice
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