The Lives of Dwarfs: Their Journey from Public Curiosity toward Social Liberation

Overview


"The Lives of Dwarfs is extraordinary in its range and vision. Beautifully written. Totally absorbing."—Ursula Hegi, author of Stones from the River

"As a little person, husband, and father of a little person, I dream of the day when dwarfs attain full acceptance in society. The Lives of Dwarfs provides a giant step in that direction."—Rick Spiegel, former president of Little People of America

"This important book makes it possible for both average- and short-statured people to challenge our collective ...

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Overview


"The Lives of Dwarfs is extraordinary in its range and vision. Beautifully written. Totally absorbing."—Ursula Hegi, author of Stones from the River

"As a little person, husband, and father of a little person, I dream of the day when dwarfs attain full acceptance in society. The Lives of Dwarfs provides a giant step in that direction."—Rick Spiegel, former president of Little People of America

"This important book makes it possible for both average- and short-statured people to challenge our collective understanding of dwarfism as a synonym for diminishment or as an array of cute and evil fairy-tale figures. The libratory work of this book is to invite us all to reimagine dwarfism as a livable experience and tenable way of being in the world."—Rosemarie Garland Thomson, author of Extraordinary Bodies: Figuring Physical Disability in American Culture and Literature

"A work of compassionate scholarship. A unique contribution to the literature of physical deformity and social isolation and a gift to the individuals whose personal struggle this is."—Linda Hunt, actor

Historically, they have borne the labels "freaks" and "oddities"; they have been collected as pets, displayed as spectacles, and treated as comic relief. Now, for the first time, in this elegant and comprehensive volume, the lives of dwarfs are explored in all their fullness and humanity.

Spanning the centuries from ancient Egypt to the present, this unique social history chronicles the various ways this population has been exploited, describes their strategies for coping, and notes the persistent influence of mythology upon perceptions of them by others. The narrative also highlights the lives of eminent individuals and contains a thought-provoking account of the representation and participation of dwarfs in the arts, enhanced by outstanding color photographs. Betty M. Adelson, the mother of a daughter with dwarfism, brings special insight and sensitivity to the research. She traces the widespread mistreatment of dwarfs over the centuries, engendered by their being viewed as curiosities rather than as human beings capable of the same accomplishments as people of average height, and deserving of the same pleasures. For much of their history, dwarfs have resorted to exhibiting themselves: because of social stigma no other employment was available.

Only in recent years have short-statured individuals begun to challenge their position in society. Medical advances, new economic opportunities, and disability legislation have led to progress, mainly in Western nations. Advocacy groups have also formed in countries as diverse as Chile, South Korea, and Nigeria. Adelson compares what she refers to as the "small revolution" to similar social and cultural awakenings that women, African Americans, gays and lesbians, and persons with disabilities experienced when they identified themselves as a community with shared goals and obstacles.

Written with passion, grace, and the dignity that the subject deserves, The Lives of Dwarfs will not only revolutionize current perceptions about the historically misrepresented dwarf population, but also offer pause for thought on issues of disability, medical treatment, height, beauty, and identity.

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Editorial Reviews

author of Stones from the River - Ursula Hegi

The Lives of Dwarfs is extraordinary in its range and vision. Beautifully written. Totally absorbing.
former president of Little People of America - Rick Spiegel

As a little person, husband, and father of little people, I dream of the day when dwarfs attain full acceptance in society. The Lives of Dwarfs provides a giant step in that direction.
actress - Linda Hunt

A work of compassionate scholarship. A unique contribution to the literature of physical deformity and social isolation and a gift to the individuals whose personal struggle this is.
author of Extraordinary Bodies: Figuring Physical Disability in American Culture - Rosemarie Garland-Thomson

This important book makes it possible for both average- and short-statured people to challenge our collective understanding of dwarfism as a synonym for diminishment or as an array of cute and evil fairy tale figures. The libratory work of this book is to invite us all to reimagine dwarfism as a livable experience and tenable way of being in the world.
Library Journal
Anybody who has ever looked at a dwarf and then looked away might find this voluminous social history insightful. Though retired psychologist Adelson (Dwarfism) occasionally gets bogged down in too much detail, the text triumphs as a formidable culling of the history of Little People (LPs). Through the centuries and in most societies, LPs have been widely demeaned and mistreated, looked upon as "exciting curiosities," kept as "pets" by the aristocracy, and often forced to work as jesters and performers in harsh venues such as midget wrestling or dwarf tossing. However, Adelson says, progress has been made in the last century owing to a collective dwarf consciousness encouraged in part by their premier advocacy group, Little People of America. From writer Alexander Pope to actress Linda Hunt, Adelson's profiles successfully portray LPs as thinking, feeling people rather than freaks; the author, as the mother of an LP, refuses to turn her gaze from the painful realities of life with a disability. Including striking color images, this is perhaps the definitive study of the subject; recommended for academic social science collections.-Janet Sassi, New York Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780813535487
  • Publisher: Rutgers University Press
  • Publication date: 6/28/2005
  • Pages: 458
  • Product dimensions: 7.28 (w) x 10.24 (h) x 1.27 (d)

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