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Pure America: Eugenics and the Making of Modern Virginia by Elizabeth Catte

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Many know the author, Elizabeth Catte, from her first book, What You Are Getting Wrong about Appalachia. This book, too, is a plain-spoken and direct polemic. The point is that eugenics and the involuntary sterilization of 8,000 people in Virginia between the years 1927 and 1979 is a manifestation of America’s racist and classist heritage and contemporary crisis. Elizabeth Catte is from Knoxville, but has lived, since 1917, in Staunton, Virginia, where the site of much sterilization, Western State, now serves as an upscale hotel with condominiums. "In a lacerating analysis of the links between economic policies and eugenicist thought, . . .this provocative and impeccably argued history reveals how traumas of the past inform the inequalities of today." ―Publishers Weekly, starred review. "Pure America exposes Virginia’s shameful past, but it also highlights how much the present continues to be stamped in its image. ...Catte’s dive into the houses eugenics built demonstrates just how thoroughly and pitilessly a certain kind of capital-backed white knowing shapes the country’s built environment to this day."―Ellen Wayland-Smith. “A well-told, richly contextualized investigation of an appalling episode in American history."―Kirkus Reviews, starred review. "Catte did not come to play. This is historical research at its most compelling and its most accessible. Fully academic yet fully human, Catte makes the historical personal, blending the past with her lived experiences in the present.” – Sara Beth West. The author, Elizabeth Catte, is an editor-at-large for West Virginia University Press.

Cleveland, Ohio: Belt Publishing, 2021. 199 pages. Hardback in dust jacket.