Books

19 November 2014

Genie: A Scientific Tragedy by Russ Rymer


This story about a little girl who suffers such horrendous physical and psychological abuse at the hands of her parents that, when she is finally released from their care at the age of thirteen, she has no language and no social skills is definitely a tragedy. That the scientific community then saw a chance to study language from a number of previously impossible perspectives need not have been a tragedy had the people behind all the research and experimentation not lost sight of the fact that Genie was actually a human being with very human needs. 

The first part of the tragedy was Genie's misfortune to have been born into a completely dysfunctional family; the second part was the fact that those people who later assumed responsibility for her physical, emotional and psychological well-being did not fully understand her need to be able to bond with one caring human. They were all focused on their research, and, somewhere between the reams of tests and papers, they all lost sight of Genie; when they finally realized that she was still there, it was too late. 

RussRymer has woven together a desperately sad story with substantial descriptions of scientific research into the origins of language, and the result is extremely interesting, compelling and definitely readable. It is impossible to read the book without questioning oneself where the line goes between what is ethically acceptable and what is not.


 Photo of Russ Rymer from  mvbookfestival.com




2 comments:

  1. Your review made me read more about the background to the story. It is strikingly tragic how this poor girl was first subjected to neglect and abuse and then landed in the hands of scientists, who were too greedy for fame and recognition to even consider her an emotional, living human being ...

    I wonder if things would have turned out different, if those who used Genie as a vehicle for their research and recognition, had been subjected the same amount of scrutiny as they inflicted on her ...

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  2. I could not agree with you more, Annette; however, among those people who were studying Genie, there were actually a couple of people who really cared. Unfortunately, their voices were drowned out by the voices of the many. Isn't that always the case?

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