Damnation Island: Poor, Sick, Mad, and Criminal in 19th-Century New York

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If one visits Roosevelt Island on the East River between Manhattan and Queens, one will find an upscale residential area, home to diplomats, millennials, and middle-class families. Little more than a hundred years ago, it was known as Blackwell’s Island and was home to the poor, the sick, the criminal, and others the people of New York didn’t want to deal with or even think about. It had a prison, an insane asylum, a workhouse, and a charity hospital, the sole purpose of which was to keep those sad individuals out of sight and out of mind. And their conditions were cruel and deplorable. There are some heroes in this story. Reverend William French, an Episcopal missionary, really does try to make things better for these mostly forgotten people. Journalist Nellie Bly had herself committed to see the true conditions. Her expose initiated the beginning of much-needed reform. This is the history author Stacy Horn lays out for readers in this well-researched and well-documented piece. This is, however, closer to textbook material than reading for the general population. Still, this is an important time in our history and one that makes for some interesting reading.

Chris Hayden

Chris Hayden been working at City Book Review since 2012, so that makes him the keeper of knowledge. He manages the office and book reviewers (all 200 of them!), which is no small feat. If you’re looking at the book reviews here, you’re seeing them because he sent the books out for review. Without him, this place would fall apart, because no one else in the office knows how to use the postage machine. Two words: job security.


Reviewed By:

Author Stacy Horn
Star Count 4/5
Format Hard
Page Count 304 pages
Publisher Algonquin Books
Publish Date 2018-May-15
ISBN 9781616205768
Amazon Buy this Book
Issue August 2018
Category Historical Fiction
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