While this book is ostensibly about the New York City Women’s House of Detention, Greenwich Village’s forgotten queer landmark, it is also about so much more ... Ryan’s book relies on extensive archival research, especially with the Women’s Prison Association, and engagement with other primary sources ... Organized chronologically, Ryan’s book integrates interesting academic studies and provokes readers to view the prison in its larger sociocultural context. His lucid writing takes the book out of the academic realm of prison history and opens it to a wider readership that will find many insights relevant to contemporary incarceration ... This blend of queer history and social history is highly recommended for all interested in learning about an often-overlooked landmark.
In reconstructing this chilling history, Ryan had rare access to private social work files that enabled him to tell detailed personal stories of prisoners, who could be sent to the House of D for crimes such as 'waywardism,' 'wearing pants,' and 'lesbianism itself.' While his narrative has strong LGBTQ+ interest, it also belongs on the shelf with books about judicial-system failures, such as Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow ... A well-reconstructed history of one of America’s worst prisons for women.
... immersive ... Expertly mining prison records and other source materials, Ryan brings these marginalized women to vivid life. This informative, empathetic narrative is a vital contribution to LGBTQ history.