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Genie: An Abused Child's Flight from Silence [Hardcover]

Ross Rymer
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)

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Book Description

March 4 1993
An account of one young woman's emergence from a tragic childhood describes how, after spending her early years trapped in a chair in a closed room, Genie learned to walk, chew, and speak, with the help of the scientists who adopted her. $20,000 ad/promo.

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From Publishers Weekly

Permanently strapped to a chair by her deranged father, Genie (a pseudonym) spent her entire childhood in the closed room of a virtually silent house in suburban California. When her nearly blind mother dragged her into a Los Angeles welfare office in 1970, the emaciated teenager could barely speak. Bounced back and forth between foster parents, institutions and her biological mother (her father fatally shot himself in 1970), Genie improved her linguistic skills but ultimately proved unable to master the rudiments of language. Basing this searing, tragic account on an article he wrote for the New Yorker, Rymer tells how linguists and psychologists, eager to test their theories, competed for access to Genie, who now lives in a home for retarded adults, hidden away from researchers by her mother. Rymer suggests that scientists and caretakers treated Genie as a "wild child" instead of giving her supportive therapy that might have enabled her to overcome the confining horrors of her childhood.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

This is the true story of Genie, whose mentally unbalanced father tied her to a potty chair and left her alone in her room. Because of this abuse, Genie lacked language and social skills, and she thereby became a pawn in the great debate over language acquisition. Rymer here presents a fascinating look at a child's abuse and the failure of the scientific community to help her achieve some normalcy. Describing her history and the various tests and studies performed on her, he show how Genie ended up as just another case study. Unfortunately, scientists considered Genie a unique opportunity to study language skills and acquisition rather than a bewildered child who desperately needed help. Recommended for academic and larger public libraries.
- Jennifer Langlois, Missouri Western State Coll. Lib., St. Joseph
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The "Afterword" knocked my socks off March 9 2003
Format:Paperback
Gee, I wish I could write a book this good, and I wish all books written were this good. The "afterword" is not to be missed -- Mr. Rymer describes his process of writing the book, and how he, the scientists he interviewed, and most everyone who tried to "understand" Genie, all ended up understanding themselves in some humbling or transformative way. So did I.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Very tragic June 9 2004
By Amy
Format:Paperback
This is a must read for anyone interested in linguistics or child development; however, it is sufficiently interesting and readable for the general population. The tragedy the title refers to is that Genie was a child exploited by the scientific world as she was treated as a case study of language acquisition rather than an abused child desperately in need of supportive therapy. Genie never got the help she needed, and ended up with "soul sickness" in a home for mentally retarded adults. This is a very moving story that will make you think about morality in research and science.
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3.0 out of 5 stars A very sad subject matter fairly documented Nov. 15 2011
By Julia
Format:Hardcover
A well written account of a tragic life and doctors seeking fame and fortune from it. It is a shame that we don't know how Genie is doing currently.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant July 21 2002
Format:Paperback
I don't have a lot to say that the other reviews haven't addressed, so I'll keep it short.
This is a book about such lofty subjects as neurolinguistics and scientific ethics, yet it remains wonderfully readable to the average (but curious) person. It's a fascinating story (see the other reviews), but Rymer's real achievement here is rendering what could have been dry scientific data interspersed with horrific tales of abuse into a book that at no time exploits its subject for cheap sentimentality. We care about "Genie" because her shot at normal life was twice aborted, not because Rymer simply wants us to.
Recommended to any curious mind.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Modern Tragedy Nov. 24 2001
Format:Paperback
I have worked as an American Sign Language interpreter, and I am also a qualified behavior specialist. I currently work with autistic teenagers in developing community living skills. I have also worked with adults who have grown up in institutions, and have an array of "institutionalized" behaviors. Thus they have become severely impaired in their daily function, when they might have been habilitated to live independently. No matter how many times I see these situations, each one breaks my heart.
So I have more than a passing interest in the subject of this book.
That parents could strap a child to a chair and provide her no social interaction for thirteen years, with no one knowing boggles the mind. The whole family is a tragedy.
Russ Rymer documents Genie's habilitation after she is discovered, and freed from this captivity. She is more than a tragedy to some people, because she is also a scientific curiosity; she presents an opportunity to study a person who, deprived of social contact past the "critical point" in language development, never develops language skills beyond the semantic level.
Everyone wants a piece of her. Linguists want her, social psychologists want her, developmental psychologists want her; each with a different agenda. As for Genie, it is difficult to fathom what she wants. In the immediate present, she has remarkable non-linguistic communicative skills which she seems to possess intuitively. But what are her hopes, her desires for a permanent living arrangement, an education, she can't communicate, or even correctly understand.
It's no good to assume that she would want what a normal child wants. She doesn't respond to affection, doesn't appear to discriminate between people and objects at first.
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