New in Nonfiction: Damnation Island

In the 19th century, New York City’s Blackwell’s Island was conceived as the most modern and humane way to handle the poor, sick, and criminal. Instead, it was like something out of Dickens.

In fact, Charles Dickens himself once visited this site of a lunatic asylum, two prisons, an almshouse, and a number of hospitals and called it “a lounging, listless madhouse.”

For Damnation Island: Poor, Sick, Mad & Criminal in 19th-Century New York, Stacy Horn pored over city records, newspaper articles, and archival reports to bring this stunning, largely forgotten tale to new life. If you’re a fan of Erik Larson—or the second season of the TV show American Horror Story—you’ll be riveted by this book.

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