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The Preventorium - A Memoir

The Preventorium

A Memoir

By Susan Annah Currie
Foreword by Cynthia A. Connolly
Series: Cultures of Childhood
Hardcover : 9781496842763, 232 pages, 19 b&w illustrations, August 2022

A fascinating and personal history of children’s public health in the US

Description

Opened on February 17, 1929, the Mississippi State Preventorium operated continuously until 1976. The Mississippi Preventorium, like similar hospitals throughout the country, was an institution for sickly, anemic, and underweight children. It was established on the grounds of the Mississippi State Tuberculosis Sanitorium in the early years of the twentieth century when tuberculosis was a dreaded disease worldwide. The TB Sanitorium hospital housed those with tuberculosis, offering refuge for patients of all ages afflicted with the pernicious and contagious disease. Although located on the same medical campus, the preventorium was a separate medical institution for children; no children with TB were admitted in the sixty-year run of the hospital. The name preventorium meant a place of preventing disease as there was a fear of sickly children contracting TB. The Mississippi Preventorium was one of the last, if not the very last, of these special hospitals for children.

Now closed, the preventorium housed over three thousand children, including author Susan Annah Currie. In this intimate memoir, Currie details her fifteen-month stay at the preventorium. From her arrival in May 1959 at six years old, Currie vividly explores the unique and isolating world that she and children across the country experienced. Her exacting routine, dictated by the nurses and doctors who now acted as her parents, erased the distinction between patients and created both a sense of community among the children and a deep sense of loneliness. From walking silently single file through the cold, narrow halls of the hospital to nurses recording every detail of their bathroom habits to extremely limited visitation from family, Currie’s time at the preventorium changed her and those around her, leaving an indelible mark even after their return home.

While many of the records from the preventorium have been lost, Currie’s memoir opens to readers a lost history largely forgotten. Told in evocative prose, The Preventorium explores Currie’s personal trials, both in the hospital and in the echoes of her experiences into adulthood.

Reviews

"The Preventorium presents a forgotten and unique aspect of Mississippi’s and the nation’s history: the institutionalization and caring for children in response to a plague. It is a vivid, compelling account of an extremely challenging and formative experience. Susan Annah Currie’s own erudition and careful self-examination of memory and of history form a narrative that is remarkable in its precision and depth."

- Leslie Daniels, author of Cleaning Nabokov’s House

"Susan Annah Currie’s memoir provides an intimate view of the preventorium and its aftereffects that last a lifetime. It’s a fascinating history and personal story, riveting in its depictions of surviving such an alienating experience. Utterly powerful and moving."

- Helena María Viramontes, author of Their Dogs Came with Them