Book Review Short: Homes for the Mad

It’s summer and I want to be outside playing with The Five-Year-Old. While that doesn’t mean I’ve stopped reading, it does mean I don’t want to spend a lot of time reviewing. Hence, the book review short.

Homes for the Mad
By Ellen Dwyer
Rutgers University Press, 1987

I came across this book in the course of doing research for my novel-in-progress, Asylum. I found it to be a very readable and quite interesting comparison of daily life within two of New York’s asylums in the 19th C — one targeted to the care of acutely ill and the other for those diagnosed as chronically insane.

It was also one of the few (and perhaps the only) books I’ve read on the subject which presents the daily life not only of the doctor and patient, but of the attendants as well. Dwyer’s account makes clear that for much of the 19th C, the attendants were just as much a prisoner of the asylum system as the patients were.


About Shala Howell

I spent two decades helping companies like Bell Labs, Juniper Networks, and a genetic testing company that was later acquired by CVS translate some of the world’s most complicated concepts into actionable, understandable English. Now I'm working on a much harder problem -- fostering children’s curiosity and engagement in the scientific, artistic, and linguistic world that surrounds them. The first book in my Caterpickles Parenting Series, What’s That, Mom?, focuses on how to use public art to nurture children’s curiosity in the world around them. My next book will focus on science, and how parents without a science degree can answer their curious child's questions without enrolling in a college level refresher course. In the meantime, you can find me blogging about life with a very curious Eleven-Year-Old at, chatting about books and the writing life at, and tweeting about books, writing, science, & things that make me smile at @shalahowell.
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