From Publishers Weekly
This is a startling window into the education of American doctors in the late 19th and early 20th centuries-on both a visceral level and for its revealing cultural record. Cringe-worthy shots of medical students-bare-handed gentlemen and a few ladies in street clothes show off their scalpels, saws and textbooks-while their cadavers, mostly poor and black, are awkwardly posed, and exposed. In one stunning shot, a black woman looks out from behind the young students. "What are we to make of an African-American woman, standing, broom handle in hand, behind the dissection table, her gaze fixed on the camera?" the authors ask. More importantly, they conclude, the photo is now drawn "out of the shadows of history" where "we can at least bear witness." A blood-soaked dissection table makes you want to look away and the dark humor of students playing pranks with skeletons are both hilarious and horrible. Postcards sent to family and friends must have caused shock and awe for postmen and recipient alike. Here, a difficult glance into medicine's "uncomfortable past" offers a grand opportunity to understand the legacy doctors and patients live with, and benefit from, today.
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