CALL TO WITNESS by Sherry Blackman


A true story of one woman's battle with disability, discrimination and a pharmaceutical powerhouse.
Email this review


Presbyterian minister, poet and journalist Blackman recounts the story of Jane Gagliardo, who suffers from multiple sclerosis and who sued a pharmaceutical corporation under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

One morning, Jane Gagliardo woke up and could feel absolutely nothing. The diagnosis? MS. She ignored the doctor’s warning that she needed treatment. Having grown up with a violent, abusive father and a pill-popping mother, she faced more issues in her troubled life than this devastating disease, the existence of which she simply pushed to the back of her mind. Gagliardo got a coveted job at vaccine manufacturer, Connaught Laboratories, a job she came to love, despite the dreary, soot-filled sky that continually rained a substance that burned the paint from employees’ cars and threatened the health of workers. Gagliardo developed a telemarketing operation that served the company well. Her circumstances changed when, she says, a new boss began to persecute her, hovering in her workspace, dogging her every move, until finally the supervisor fired Gagliardo. Thus began the long fight waged by Gagliardo against her former employer under the Americans with Disabilities Act. For the most part, the author relates this confrontational legal battle with a keen sense of drama. This often engrossing tale loses some punch, however, due to basic errors. For example, the author miscalculates a date in the following: “The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), passed in 1990…became effective four years earlier in 1992.” Such factual lapses undermine the story’s credibility, as do occasional grammatical errors. “What was on trial here is so much more than discrimination,” Blackman writes, “her integrity, her character, her life was on trial.” Problems with subject-verb agreement, dangling modifiers, and misspellings occasionally creep into the text, diminishing the force of this compelling narrative struggle that pits Gagliardo against Connaught Laboratories.

A sometimes flawed narrative that will yet engage the reader in a David-and-Goliath story pitting one brave woman against a corporate giant.

Pub Date: May 1st, 2013
ISBN: 978-0985822903
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Broad Street Publishing
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online:


by Greg Marcus
NonfictionEXPOSURE by Michael Woodford
by Michael Woodford