• by Adam Cohen
  • Narrated by Dan Woren
  • 13 hrs and 19 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

One of America's great miscarriages of justice, the Supreme Court's infamous 1927 Buck v. Bell ruling made government sterilization of "undesirable" citizens the law of the land.
New York Times best-selling author Adam Cohen tells the story in Imbeciles of one of the darkest moments in the American legal tradition: the Supreme Court's decision to champion eugenic sterilization for the greater good of the country. In 1927, when the nation was caught up in eugenic fervor, the justices allowed Virginia to sterilize Carrie Buck, a perfectly normal young woman, for being an "imbecile".
It is a story with many villains, from the superintendent of the Dickensian Virginia Colony for Epileptics and Feebleminded who chose Carrie for sterilization to the former Missouri agriculture professor and Nazi sympathizer who was the nation's leading advocate for eugenic sterilization. But the most troubling actors of all were the eight Supreme Court justices who were in the majority - including William Howard Taft, the former president; Louis Brandeis, the legendary progressive; and Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., America's most esteemed justice, who wrote the decision urging the nation to embark on a program of mass eugenic sterilization.
Exposing this tremendous injustice - which led to the sterilization of 70,000 Americans - Imbeciles overturns cherished myths and reappraises heroic figures in its relentless pursuit of the truth. With the precision of a legal brief and the passion of a front-page exposé, Cohen's Imbeciles is an unquestionable triumph of American legal and social history, an ardent accusation against these acclaimed men and our own optimistic faith in progress.


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Compelling Concept, Aggravating Execution

"Imbeciles" seemed like such an extraordinary and fascinating book that I hit Pre-Order and waited a looong time for it. I couldn't download it fast enough (okay, I'm kind of a nonfiction nut).
It's taken me weeks to finally finish it.
How to say this, hmmm: It's repetitive as all get out! It starts out engaging, but then the main concepts are retold over and over... and over. Carrie's education is stated, then it's referenced in another context, then in another. What one doctor, lawyer, whomever, says is stated, then it's quoted from, say, a letter that they wrote, then from a different letter, then as a statement they gave, then perhaps a different letter they wrote. Facts are told, retold, etc. and, at first, it's boring, then it becomes downright aggravating. I fell asleep twice, woke up an hour later, and each time found myself listening to something I'd already heard several times.
Further, Cohen keeps telling the reader things like, "As if that weren't bad enough," and "It's egregious that..." I don't need an author poking me with a stick, especially when he just poked me eight minutes ago.
Dan Woren does a decent job, but it's not a stellar performance. Certainly not enough to make this a compelling listen.
This is a great story, worth being told and listened to... if it was maybe eight, nine hours long. Over thirteen? Not so much...
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- Gillian

One of the best history books I've read in years

This is a powerful, fascinating book. Deeply researched yet highly readable. It works well as an audio book. The story is horrifying, especially to early 21st century.intellectual sensibilities. But the author makes a good attempt to explain the context of the eugenics movement from the Gilded Age to the 1920s. How some members of the upper the U.S. got swept up in social Darwinism.& how turn led some to find eugenics an attractive extension. The story is told in episodes, which makes it pick up & put down. But it hangs together well. It's structure does create some competitiveness. But the books powerful narration to forgive some repetition.
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- D. Littman

Book Details

  • Release Date: 03-01-2016
  • Publisher: Penguin Audio