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“The Strange Case of Dr. Couney” conversation with author Dawn Raffel

September 5, 2018 @ 6:00 pm - 7:00 pm


About the book: What kind of doctor puts his patients on display? As Dawn Raffel artfully recounts, Dr. Couney figured out he could use incubators and careful nursing to keep previously doomed infants alive, and at the same time make good money displaying these babies alongside sword swallowers, bearded ladies, and burlesque shows. How this turn-of-the-twentieth-century émigré became the savior to families with premature infants, known then as “weaklings”––while ignoring the scorn of the medical establishment and fighting the climate of eugenics––is one of the most astounding stories of modern medicine. And as readers will find, Dr. Couney, for all his opportunistic entrepreneurial gusto, is a surprisingly appealing character, someone who genuinely cared for the well-being of his tiny patients. But he had something to hide.

Drawing on historical documents, original reportage, and interviews with surviving patients, acclaimed journalist and magazine editor Dawn Raffel tells the marvelously eccentric story of Couney’s mysterious carnival career, his larger-than-life personality, and his unprecedented success as the savior of tiny babies.

About the author: Dawn Raffel’s illustrated memoir, “The Secret Life of Objects,” was a Wall Street Journal bestseller. Previous books include a critically-acclaimed novel, “Carrying the Body,” and two story collections, “Further Adventures in the Restless Universe” and “In the Year of Long Division.” A longtime magazine editor, she helped launch O, The Oprah Magazine, where she was executive articles editor. She has also taught creative writing in the MFA program at Columbia University; at summer literary seminars in St. Petersburg, Russia; Montreal; and Vilnius, Lithuania; and at the Center for Fiction in New York. She now works as an independent editor and book reviewer.

About the interlocutor: Stuart Dybek is the author of six books of fiction and two collections of poetry, most recently, “The Start of Something: Selected Stories in 2016.” Two collections of fiction “Ecstatic Cahoots” and “Paper Lantern: Love Stories” were released together in 2014. Dybek grew up in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood and his book “The Coast of Chicago” was a One Book One Chicago selection. He’s the recipient several literary awards including a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Lannan Prize, and a MacArthur Fellowship. His work has appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Harper’s, Poetry, and numerous other magazines. Dybek is currently the distinguished writer in residence at Northwestern University.


RSVP requested here.


September 5, 2018
6:00 pm - 7:00 pm


The Seminary Co-op Bookstores
57th Street Books


The Seminary Co-op Bookstores
5751 S. Woodlawn Ave.
Chicago, IL 6063 United States
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