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Christmas in Purgatory: A Photographic Essay on Mental Retardation Spiral-bound – June, 1974

ISBN-13: 978-0937540008 ISBN-10: 0937540005

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Product Details

  • Spiral-bound: 121 pages
  • Publisher: Human Policy Press (June 1974)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0937540005
  • ISBN-13: 978-0937540008
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 8.5 x 11 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #217,171 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

38 of 38 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 24, 1999
Format: Spiral-bound
This book is the first to do a photographic expose on the condition of our nation's institutions for the mentally retarded in the 1960's. This was done on the heels of Senator Robert Kennedy's visits to several of his state's institutions and revelation of the horrific state he found them in. This is not an easy book to look at especially when looking at the children and how they were housed, contained, etc. It shows first the worst conditions that the author and photographer found and then documents an institute on the cutting edge at the time. Kaplan brings us face to face with how our ignorance and expectations can be self-fulfilling prophecies for those entrusted to our care. I found it an important book to keep as a reminder of where we have been so as not to return there.
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23 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Robin Orlowski on June 30, 2001
Format: Spiral-bound
Those who would dismiss this book as overgeneralized and flawed forget that institutions were originally established not to protect disabled people from society, but society from disabled people.
Popular notion of the time held disabled people would be much more of a hindrance than help to society, and looked odd. Thus, if they were locked up, society would know where they were at all times while being able to pretend that they did not exist to begin with. Indeed, when Blatt and Kaplan's expose appeared, it set off controversy from those who had the audacity to defend the charges against very quickly turning public sentiment.
Although they are certainly free to articulate what they consider flaws with the book, it is difficult to believe that critics of this work would actually want to downplay the seriousness of these (and other) investigations if they were in those instutitions. Indeed, I strongly suspect they would want to be treated like human beings and given adequate care and a stimmulating environment.
As a diabled person myself, the contents of the book hit very close to home. Fortunate enough to be born in 1979, I realized that had I been born 20 years earlier, I most likely would have been one of the unfortunate people in the institutions investigated in this essay. While I previously had been aware of the disability rights movement's work in this area, reading this book gave me a whole new perspective on my work as a disability rights activist.
Because this book was never positioned as an indictment of all facilities, I am suprised by the rather hostile nitpicking and the blanket statement allegations. I believe this says more about the individuals reviewers than the quality of the authors themselves, and should not be weighted when looking at this book.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 4, 2002
Format: Spiral-bound
I was introduced to Christmas in Purgatory in 1996, when I took a course at Western Washington University called Introduction to Execeptional Children. There was no introduction to the essay, it was simply named in an assignment. Needless to say, I was horrified. I'm placing an order for it today as I feel that students taking courses related to people with disabilities need to see this. The book cannot be found on the national library system (in Norway), and therefore I've decided to buy a copy and donate it to my local university.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 5, 2003
Format: Spiral-bound
I was told of this book in a meeting at of the company I work for.
We Provide Care to MR/DD people. This book is very disturbing and also enlighting. It makes me feel good to know that we, as a society have for the most part worked to change what these poor souls went through. A must read.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By garnet on July 11, 2011
Format: Spiral-bound Verified Purchase
Little words are needed to accompany the pictures (taking clandestinely) of the horrors of institutionalization in this country especially around the time of Willow Brook. The entire country needs to see these photos so as to never forget lest we doom ourselves to repeat these atrocities.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By The Dane on January 20, 2014
Format: Spiral-bound Verified Purchase
More than just a book, Christmas in Purgatory opened up the eyes of a nation to the horrible conditions many developmentally disabled people endured. Imagine people in America living in concentration camp type settings. Imagine critical services being denied. Imagine hours and days and years of neglect. This is the shocking reality Burton Blatt makes us face.

Even after all these years-we must not forget the lessons he teaches in this book. This book is an absolute must for those in the field of developmental disabilitites.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By C. Chutich on June 2, 2014
Format: Spiral-bound Verified Purchase
This photographic essay serves as great chronicle of what conditions used to be like at one time in our history of the treatment of the disabled. It should be used not only as a reminder of how far we have come but to never go back to that place again. Treatment of the mentally ill and disabled is critical and often ignored and still poorly treated in today world.
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