Podcasts, Interviews, Opeds

Publicity for my book is gearing up, and I’ve started recording podcasts, participating in interviews, writing op-eds, and the answers to Q&As. It’s stressful, because you want to do a good job, and having a new book out in the world feels so vulnerable. You’ve worked for years on this thing, its your baby, and people will pounce.

But it’s great, and it’s exciting as well. And I’m being offered a lot more opportunities for this book, which seems to indicate there’s interest in the subject. It’s also such a pleasure when the person asking questions is familiar with your work (I’m looking at you Citizen Reader) and asks meaningful questions.

I recorded a podcast at the New York Public Library this week. The host, Aidan Flax-Clark, and the producer, Schuyler Swenson, were incredible. They really were into the subject, and got what I was trying to do, although this led to a sad moment. Schuyler told me about learning about a German immigrant while working at the Tenement Museum. He’d come to America and built up a life, and a business. She knew he ended his life on Blackwell’s Island, but she didn’t know at the time exactly what that meant. Now she does. (It was not a happy ending.)

Empty stacks at the New York Public Library (books are being moved around).

My First Public Event, Hosted by Untapped Cities

The first public event for my new book Damnation Island: Poor, Sick, Mad, and Criminal in 19th-Century New York is on May 16, from 6 – 8pm. Untapped Cities, is hosting a presentation, Q&A and book party inside the historic Starrett-Lehigh Building in Chelsea, a New York City landmark located along the Hudson River.

PRICE: FREE for Untapped Cities Insiders, $15 for the public
CAPACITY: 74 guests. Spots allocated on a first come, first served basis.

Please, please consider attending! It would be nice to have friendly, familiar faces in the crowd!

As the rents skyrocket in my neighborhood, one by one businesses shut down and leave behind empty storefronts that don’t get filled because who can make a go of it with rents like these?? Someone wrote their comment on what was left behind in my former newspaper/magazine store. It was sad, but I no longer read print versions of newspapers, and the magazines I used to love are largely gone or are not so lovable anymore. (You can see my reflection in the window.)

Should We Bring Back Asylums?

I was on The Colin McEnroe Show today talking about Trump’s suggestion about bringing back asylums.  It’s a vitally important issue to discuss, and the guests on the show made some very key points.  They were great.

I’m sorry that I didn’t make one particular point, I started to but I must have lost my train of thought. It all comes down to money. When we talk about asylums we’re talking about the poor and middle class. The rich have their own, private mental health facilities. The problem is it’s expensive to do this well. If you don’t spend what’s needed, and that’s a lot, you will have a repeat of what we had in the 19th century. And given the current political climate I don’t see a lot of money going into a public healthcare program.

I never found pictures of the inside of the Lunatic Asylum on Blackwell’s Island, nor could I find pictures of the buildings known as the Madhouse, the Lodge and the Retreat. But in the corner of one very idealized drawing of the Lunatic Asylum I found what I believe was a drawing of the Madhouse. (Quick backstory: I just wrote a book about Blackwell’s called Damnation Island: Poor, Sick, Mad, & Criminal in 19th-Century New York. It comes out on May 15.)

Here is a pulled back view of the drawing. The building I believe is the Madhouse is on the left.

Lunatic Asylum, Blackwell's Island