Why Joanna Goodman's new novel about the Duplessis Orphans took two decades to write

Joanna Goodman talks about the tragic story of the Duplessis Orphans, and the novel that took her almost two decades to write.
Joanna Goodman's novel, The Home for Unwanted Girls, examines the social history of 1950s Quebec. (Stacey Van Berkel, HarperCollins)

In the 1950s in Quebec, under premier Maurice Duplessis, thousands of healthy orphans in the province were declared mentally ill. At the time, provinces could get more federal funding for patients than they could for orphaned children.

With the help of the Catholic Church, orphanages were turned into hospitals and many of the children involved were physically and sexually abused. Some were forced into electroshock therapy or even forced to have lobotomies.

Author Joanna Goodman first learned about the Duplessis Orphans when she was doing research for her latest novel. 
Goodman's mom had grown up in Quebec in the '50s with one Anglophone and one Francophone parent. She was set to write a book about that, but when she stumbled upon this horrific chapter in Canada's history, she decided to make it the basis for her new novel, The Home for Unwanted Girls.

She spoke to Tom Power about the tragic story of the Duplessis Orphans, and the novel that took her almost two decades to write. The Home For Unwanted Girls is out now.

Produced by Ben Edwards


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