From Publishers Weekly
When New York's 120-plus-year-old mental institution Willard State Hospital was closed down in 1995, New York Museum curator Craig Williams found a forgotten attic filled with suitcases belonging to former inmates. He informed Penney, co-editor of The Snail's Pace Review and a leading advocate of patients rights, who recognized the opportunity to salvage the memory of these institutionalized lives. She invited Stastny, a psychiatrist and documentary filmmaker, to help her curate an exhibit on the find and write this book, which they dedicate to "the Willard suitcase owners, and to all others who have lived and died in mental institutions." What follows are profiles of 10 individual patients whose suitcase contents proved intriguing (there were 427 bags total), referencing their institutional record-including histories and session notes-as well as some on-the-ground research. A typical example is Ethel Smalls, who likely suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of her husband's abuse; misdiagnosed and institutionalized against her will, she lived at Willard until her death in 1973. While the individual stories are necessarily sketchy, the cumulative effect is a powerful indictment of healthcare for the mentally ill. 25 color and 63 b&w photographs.
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"A tour de force, a must-read for anyone concerned with social justice, human rights and historical reclamation." -- Laura Prescott, President and Founder of Sister Witness International Inc.
"Darby Penny and Peter Stastny turn remembrance into an act of alchemy." -- Kim Hopper, author of Reckoning with Homelessness
"Darby Penney and Peter Stastny have...reclaim[ed] these individuals from the nameless, faceless fate of being only 'mental patients.'" -- Judi Chamberlin, author of On Our Own
"No reader will walk away untouched by these compelling portraits...." -- Ronald Bassman, Ph.D., author of A Fight to Be: A Psychologist's Experience from Both Sides of the Locked Door.