Inventing America’s “Worst” Family: Eugenics, Islam, and the Fall and Rise of the Tribe of Ishmæl

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9780520255234: Inventing America’s “Worst” Family: Eugenics, Islam, and the Fall and Rise of the Tribe of Ishmæl

This book tells the stranger-than-fiction story of how a poor white family from Indiana was scapegoated into prominence as America's "worst" family by the eugenics movement in the early twentieth century, then "reinvented" in the 1970s as part of a vanguard of social rebellion. In what becomes a profoundly unsettling counter-history of the United States, Nathaniel Deutsch traces how the Ishmaels, whose patriarch fought in the Revolutionary War, were discovered in the slums of Indianapolis in the 1870s and became a symbol for all that was wrong with the urban poor. The Ishmaels, actually white Christians, were later celebrated in the 1970s as the founders of the country's first African American Muslim community. This bizarre and fascinating saga reveals how class, race, religion, and science have shaped the nation's history and myths.

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From the Inside Flap:

"Inventing America's Worst Family is an important, refreshing, and interesting work. Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of this account is its placement at the center of a larger narrative about America's obsession with Orientalism. The story emerges gracefully and compellingly; Deutsch clearly presents new material and has gone to great efforts to track what actually became of the Ishmael group, and its origins."—Wendy Kline, author of Building a Better Race: Gender, Sexuality, and Eugenics from the Turn of the Century to the Baby Boom

"This is one of the most intriguing, imaginative works of history I've read in quite some time. Inventing America's Worst Family advances historical scholarship on poverty and eugenics in compelling ways, with its deep analysis of institutional realities and cultural trends. Deutsch combines a terrific story with his own impressive narrative talent; the book is ingeniously conceived, brilliantly researched, and beautifully told!"—J. Terry Todd, Drew University

About the Author:

Nathaniel Deutsch, Professor of Literature and History at the University
of California, Santa Cruz, is author of The Maiden of Ludmir: A Jewish Holy Woman and Her World (UC Press), among other books.

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Nathaniel Deutsch
Published by University of California Press (2009)
ISBN 10: 0520255232 ISBN 13: 9780520255234
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Nathaniel Deutsch
Published by University of California Press (2009)
ISBN 10: 0520255232 ISBN 13: 9780520255234
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