Genie: An Abused Child's Flight from Silence Hardcover – Mar 1993
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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.
Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
For a more academic treatment try "Genie: aPsycholinguistic Study of a Modern-Day Wild Child", the doctoral thesis of linguist Susan Curtiss. Of all the researchers who worked with Genie, Curtiss is perhaps the only one whose behaviour was beyond reproach. Her account is thorough, warm-hearted and highly engaging.
For a quick introduction to the case, try the transcriptof "Secret of the Wild Child", a PBS broadcast.
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.
Most recent customer reviews
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.Published on Nov. 15 2011 by Julia
This is a must read for anyone interested in linguistics or child development; however, it is sufficiently interesting and readable for the general population. Read morePublished on June 9 2004 by Amy
Through this sad story of a severely deprived girl, we are moved to appreciate the importance of culture, in which children grow up to be normal, functioning humans. Read morePublished on March 1 2000
This book is an absolute must-read for any pediatrician student or otherwise. It is a fascinating study and yes, a tragedy. Read morePublished on Nov. 11 1997
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