Thursday, June 2, 2016

‘Magruder’s Curiosity Cabinet’

A sense that outcasts were building their own society particularly appealed to me when reading Magruder’s Curiosity Cabinet by H.P. Wood (SOURCEBOOKS Landmark, June 2016).

For the tourists who flock to Coney Island, circa 1907, Magruder’s is a “dime museum” in a less-fashionable area of the park. Dominant cultural attitudes about race, sexual orientation, gender presentation and “typical” physicality mean that sideshow performers are subjects of curiosity for ticket-paying tourists, but they are also marginalized and excluded from broader society. In the museum basement, Magruder’s provides a gathering place for the performers free from tourists’ stares.

Their society is threatened on two fronts as animals and people quickly succumb to a rapidly spreading disease. And a senator’s aide, anxious to gain favor with his employer, is determined to tear Magruder’s down because it stands in the way of development.

I found much to relate to and enjoy reading Magruder’s Curiosity Cabinet. To begin with, the story is fast-paced and exciting, with fully-developed characters. But I could also relate to not fitting in among “normal” people, and of finding and wanting to protect the family you build with other outcasts.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a review copy of this book from the publisher. The opinion expressed is my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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