Columbus: Dawn Raffel on The Strange Case of Dr. Couney

Event date: 
09/25/2018 - 7:00pm

Join us at Book Culture on Columbus as Dawn Raffel discusses her new book, The Strange Case of Dr. Couney: How a Mysterious European Showman Saved Thousands of American Babies, on Tuesday, September 25th at 7pm! Dawn will be joined in conversation with Marie Myung-Ok Lee.

The extraordinary tale of how a mysterious immigrant "doctor" became the revolutionary innovator of saving premature babies--by placing them in incubators in World's Fair side shows and on Coney Island and Atlantic City.

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 migr 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Drawing on historical documents, original reportage, and interviews with surviving patients, acclaimed journalist and magazine editor Dawn Raffel tells the marvelously eccentric story of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.


Dawn Raffel is a journalist, memoirist, and short-story writer whose work has been widely anthologized. A longtime magazine editor, she helped launch O, The Oprah Magazine. 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.

Marie Myung-Ok Lee is a novelist who teaches at Columbia University and writes for Slate, Salon, The New York Times, and The Guardian.

Event address: 
Book Culture on Columbus
450 Columbus Ave.
New York, NY 10024
Can't make it? Reserve a signed copy by calling our store today: 
The Strange Case of Dr. Couney: How a Mysterious European Showman Saved Thousands of American Babies Cover Image
$27.00
ISBN: 9780399175749
Availability: On Our Shelves Now - Click Title to See Location Inventory.
Published: Blue Rider Press - July 31st, 2018

Somebody's Daughter: A Novel Cover Image
$21.00
ISBN: 9780807083895
Availability: On Our Shelves Now - Click Title to See Location Inventory.
Published: Beacon Press - April 1st, 2006