The horror of eugenics: "Better for All the World: The Secret History of Forced Sterilization and America's Quest for Racial Purity" by Harry Bruinius.

Jul 22, 05:59 AM

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(Photo:The horror of eugenics: "Better for All the World: The Secret History of Forced Sterilization and America's Quest for Racial Purity" by Harry Bruinius.

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The horror  of eugenics: "Better for All the World: The Secret History of Forced Sterilization and America's Quest for Racial Purity" by Harry Bruinius.

Publishers Weekly In the early years of the 20th century, a fixation on eugenics led several states to approve forced sterilization to keep thousands of Americans from producing "morally inferior" or "feeble-minded" offspring. Bruinius's greatest accomplishment in his retelling of this blot on our nation's history is forcing readers to recognize the humanity of the victims of these policies. He begins with Carrie Buck, a young Virginia woman used by state medical authorities as a test case to get the courts to legitimize their program. At times, Bruinius's account of the events leading up to her sterilization employs a novelistic level of detail, such as recreating the mental state of participants, a technique also applied to discussing the lives of the scientists whose theories drove the eugenics movement. (These stories have their bittersweet ironies; one leading eugenicist was an epileptic, while another's daughter showed signs of dyslexia.) The tone occasionally slips into excessive moralizing when he underscores the relationship between American eugenics and Nazi Germany, but the connections are certainly there. This history isn't as "secret" as the title makes it out to be—it's been told most recently by Edwin Black in War Against the Weak—but Bruinius brings compelling drama to the narrative that should give it broad appeal. Photos. (Feb. 27) Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title