A BarksBeachesBooks Review
Welcome to my stop on the TLC Book Blog Tour for Administrations of Lunacy by Mab Segrest.
First things first, this book IS haunting. But unlike the title suggests, it is NOT a ghost story except in the sense of drawing out the history of the ghosts of our ancestors and how completely they wrecked psychiatry from the beginning for women and, especially, African Americans.
This is a rough and infuriating read about how the first white settlers in America used psychiatry to control women and people of color by extreme methods in the asylum as well as banning and refusing treatment to those deemed unable to have mental health issues outside of the asylum due to skin color.
Honestly, I was disgusted reading this and that is the entire point. We had so many chances to make a great mental health care system from the *literal* beginning, especially considering the fact that the first asylums were actually copied off the ones in Europe. The problem? The picking and choosing which parts to copied. If it was beneficial to white men (their own mental health, ridding them of wives and family members that were burdening them, power) then it was brought into the American asylum model. Was it beneficial to women and, again especially, to African Americans? Then it was disregarded.
It was a very hard read to get through seeing instance after instance after instance of people being thrown away or killed (because let’s be honest, MANY people died in these asylums) all for the benefit of white men rising to power. That being said, while a tough read, it is an EXTREMELY important read. Talk about history class omissions.
Here’s the thing about the book, the beginning is a lot of guessing about feelings (perhaps she thought, maybe he felt) which I didn’t care for. However, this quickly stops (and does serve a purpose) and as you continue through the book you see how even the smallest, most unlikely character (sometimes without even a name attached due to poor historical recording) ties into the stories of all and to the entire asylum scheme that still bleeds into psychiatry today. This reads like a textbook so don’t expect a fast-paced thriller, but do expect to take breaks because you will need them.
*Thank you to TLC Book Tours and Mab Segrest for providing my copy to read and review.*
About Administrations of Lunacy
Author, Mab Segrest
Mab Segrest is professor emeritus of gender and women’s studies at Connecticut College and the author of Administrations of Lunacy and Memoir of a Race Traitor (both from The New Press). A longtime activist in social justice movements and a past fellow at the National Humanities Center, she lives in Durham, North Carolina. Photo by Laura Flanders