I happened upon Stigma in the Tufts University Library on a Saturday afternoon in 1968 while I was looking for something else. I took it down from the shelf, read a paragraph, and then knelt between the stacks to read it straight through - hurrying, shaking a little from fear that someone might come along to stop me, forbid me the book. Or that I might lose my courage, or my sense of identification, and revert to thinking that I did not need to hear what was being said. I grew up crippled from a very early age (perhaps polio, perhaps congenital hip dysplasia). I had also been traumatized and further physically injured by a decade (ages 2-12) of 1940's orthopedic work. I reached age 13 weeping, stammering, weighing 73 lb, with noticeably poor bladder control. By age 28, when I read Stigma, I weighed 87 lb, smoked incessantly, drank sherry at breakfast, and (although unbelievably, impossibly married) was - like a high-fashion model or a female marathoner -sexually only marginal. I had never stopped liking my body (if not its appearance) or being grateful for all the ways in which its physical intelligence was intact, but until I read Stigma I did not know how to cope with the shame and social vulnerability that being crippled had created -except to follow my mother's cryptic advice, "Just stare right back." That afternoon in the empty library was worth five years of individual psychotherapy. It set me on a line of march that led directly to an amicable divorce, the National Organization for Women, Alcoholics Anonymous, and another 20 lb.
This text was assigned reading in a Psych101 back in 1970, but its themes have stayed with me so strongly I am now ordering it for my personal library. I was born with a club foot, and experienced the power of being different, even though my personal defect was so minor as to be rarely noticed by others. STIGMA gave me an appreciation of the force behind my own shame and the reaction to my difference of others. More importantly, I learned about the degrees of identity-- which differences make the most difference (sex, race, disabilities...) and the increasing intensity that comes with breaking the most closely held norms. A classic study.
Can anyone convince me that this books worth the time i spent reading it? not entertaining, not enlightening and definitely not useful. Give credit for using somany examples, but no, just call it "The long introduction to Stigma", theres no meat in the pie.