Conditions for People with Disabilities in 1930s America: Background information when reading The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store

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The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store

A Novel

by James McBride

The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store by James McBride X
The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store by James McBride
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  • Published:
    Aug 2023, 400 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Abby Edgecumbe
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About this Book

Conditions for People with Disabilities in 1930s America

This article relates to The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store

James McBride's novel The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store follows a community as they work together to save a young deaf Black boy, Dodo, from unjust institutionalization in 1930s America. Though Dodo's disability is physical, the state authorities are determined to place him in a mental institution called Pennhurst. In the context of American history, this was not an uncommon phenomenon. The conditions for mentally and physically impaired people in the 1930s were poor to say the least, and McBride put special care into investigating this issue in his novel. Speaking to Scott Detrow of NPR, the author states, "I was always fascinated with the idea about how these kids who are, quote-unquote, 'disabled' end up in insane asylums in the early times, in the '20s, '30s, '40s and '50s and so forth." Understanding these conditions can shed light on the ethos behind the characters' desperate need to save Dodo from Pennhurst.

Before the enactment of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) ...

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