Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Review: Against Their Will by Kevin Begos, et al.

Title: Against Their Will: North Carolina's Sterilization Program
Author: Kevin Begos, Danielle Deaver, John Railey, Scott Sexton
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Grey Oak Books
Publish Date: March 20, 2012
Source: I received a copy from the PR; however, this did not affect my review.

Why Are You Reading This Book:

  • You like non-fiction.
  • You're interested in social issues.
  • You're interested in ethics, especially bioethics
What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "They were wives and daughters. Unwed mothers. Children. Even a 10-year-old boy. Some were blind or mentally retarded. Toward the end they were mostly black and poor, and it all took place not in the distant past, but up until the 1970s.

For more than 40 years North Carolina ran one of the nation’s largest and most aggressive sterilization programs. It expanded after World War II, even as most other states pulled back in light of the horrors of Hitler’s Germany.

This spring, North Carolina is poised to become the first state to pay reparations to victims of eugenics, or involuntary sterilization.

North Carolina’s historic debate over its eugenic past was launched by Against Their Will, a series in the Winston- Salem Journal. A team of reporters exposed the scientific flaws and racial bais of the eugenics program through interviews with victims, the doctors who operated on them, the bureaucrats who ran the program, and long-hidden documents that historian Johanna Schoen shared with a reporter.

The series led directly to an apology from the governor and the first efforts in the nation seeking to compensate victims of eugenics. Against Their Will has drawn praise from civil rights groups, historians, and the general public."

My Two Cents:

When most Americans think of eugenics, many probably think of some of the insidious activities that the Nazis engaged in during World War II. Not many people realize that many states in America had eugenics programs. States sterilized people they felt were "feeble minded" or suffered from mental illnesses. Many of the people who were sterilized got absolutely no say in whether or not they wanted to be sterilized. It definitely called into question biomedical ethics! Some of these programs, like the one in North Carolina discussed in this book went on until the 1970s. This is a dark, secretive part of history to say the very least.

This book is a collection of articles that ran as part of a series on the North Carolina eugenics program and the possible reparitions to be made to those affected by the program. These ugly programs are definitely worth a discussion but with this book just being a collection of news stories does not venture very deeply into the issue. The articles are very good for newspaper articles but there is a huge difference between a collection of newspaper articles and a real exploration of the issue. That exploration was definitely missing for me. I was looking for more of a connection between all of the articles. I wanted to see the bigger picture. You really don't get much of that in this book.

Bottom line: I still think this is an important subject that more people need to know about but this book is not an all inclusive guide to the subject at hand; it's more just an appetizer.



  1. It's amazing how recent some of these things happened and people aren't aware. Sounds like a great book.

  2. You're right that this is a secret part of history, the authors of the book had such an opportunity here and it sounds like they didn't make the most of it.

  3. This happened all over Europe as well, especially with the handicapped and mentally challenged (is that the pc term) population, but people don't like to talk about it.

    In fact, there is a law in Sweden, and 16 other European countries, that forces transgender people to get sterilized before being allowed to legally change their gender. So, no "pregnant men" over here - at least not "men" as the law recognise them.


Hi! Welcome to A Bookish Affair. If you leave a comment, I will try to either reply here or on your site!

As of 6/6/2011, this book is now an awards free zone. While I appreciate the awards, I would rather stick to reviewing more great books for you than trying to fill the requirements.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...