Synopses & Reviews
Following the Second World War, a generation of Seattle parents went against conventional medical wisdom and chose to bring up their children with developmental disabilities in the community. This book presents a stunning visual narrative of thirteen of these remarkable families. With a rich array of interviews, photographs, newspaper clippings, official documents, and personal mementos, photographer Susan Schwartzenberg captures moving recollections of the struggle and perseverance of these parents. Becoming Citizens
traces their dogged determination to make meaningful lives for their children in the face of an often hostile system.
Breaking the silence that characterizes the history of disability in the United States, Becoming Citizens is a substantive contribution to social and regional history. It demonstrates the ways in which personal experiences can galvanize communities for political action. The centerpiece of the book is the story of four mothers-turned-activists who coauthored Education for All, a crucial piece of Washington State legislation that was a precursor to the national law securing educational rights for every person with a disability in America.
Becoming Citizens is a deeply compassionate testament to the experience of family life and disability, as it is to the ways in which ordinary citizens become activists. It will be important to anyone interested in disability studies, including teachers, friends, and families of those with disabilities.
Susan Schwartzenberg is a photographer and visual artist whose work explores biography, memory, and urban life. She lives in San Francisco and holds a senior staff position at the Exploratorium.
"Using interviews with parents and photographs of ordinary family life, Susan Schwartzenberg chronicles the journeys of change agents. Becoming Citizen is a compelling examination of the role of parents in the disability rights movement." - James W. Trent, Gordon College
"A valuable and well done book. The Seattle case study is particularly significant historically because the Washington State law became the model for the federal Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975." - Paul K. Longmore, San Francisco State University
"In this must-read book, Schwartzenberg compellingly recounts and beautifully illustrates two journeys--that of the 'greatest generation' of parents and their children and that of a society reformed by their unstoppable commitment to justice." - Rud and Ann Turnbull, University of Kansas, Lawrence
"Susan Schwartzenberg is evolving a new kind of mixed-media history, one in which narration supplements oral history and her own photographs augment those of the archive to make a historical narrative that is both deeply personal and resonantly public." - Rebecca Solnit, San Francisco
"This secret history of the lives and treatment of the developmentally disabled, as told by parents and siblings, is one of those marvelous books whose parts add up to something much greater than their sum. The individual family narratives tell of struggles: against doctors who automatically advocate institutionalization, against schools that refuse to teach Down's Syndrome children to read for fear of damaging their psyches, against psychologists who suggest dressing their children in drab-colored clothing, so as not to attract undue attention. These oral histories bring to light the little-known story of a movement relegated to the sidelines of the civil rights struggle, fought by mothers from living rooms and church basements and won in the federal courts. Schwartzenberg, a photographer and visual artist, puts her own photographs side by side with family snapshots and other archival documents for a book that transforms the intimacy of its individual stories into something of profound universal resonance." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)