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PHANTOM PLAGUE

HOW TUBERCULOSIS SHAPED HISTORY

A timely, significant analysis of the dire consequences of public health failures.

A penetrating social history of a virulent disease.

Drawing on two decades of reporting on tuberculosis and HIV in India, Krishnan makes her book debut with a hard-hitting indictment of the greed, politics, and racism that have led to the prevalence of drug-resistant tuberculosis. The disease, medical historians speculate, likely began in ancient Egypt and traveled across the world along trade routes. It ravaged 19th-century slums, where overcrowding and filth incubated an illness that had no cure. Its victims, though, were hardly limited to the poor. Among TB’s sufferers were Orwell, Kafka, Eleanor Roosevelt, Chopin, and all of the Brontë sisters. Krishnan traces early efforts to stem contagion, including a campaign in the U.S. to ban spitting; although that effort failed, it led to the creation of public and hand-held spittoons. If men would not stop spitting tobacco, at least the mucus could be contained. The development of germ theory led to the creation of antibiotics, but while curing TB, overuse of antibiotics for all manner of maladies caused drug-resistant strains, especially rife in India. Ramshackle housing, inadequate medical care (doctors who fail to diagnose TB or prescribe correct treatment), and the rationing of drugs because of big pharma’s patent monopolies all contribute to the rise of drug resistance. “Tuberculosis,” writes the author, “demonstrates what happens to science when it leaves the lab setting and interacts with flawed human beings: patients, doctors, politicians, and rabble-rousers, all of whom have a unique effect on the course of the plague.” Krishnan writes that the World Health Organization estimates 25% of the world population has latent TB, fueled by an “architecture of unfairness,” inequality, and ignorance. Underscoring the vulnerability of the poor, Krishnan asserts that TB epitomizes “a new form of medical apartheid in which preventable and curable diseases, such as TB, are thriving while lifesaving medicines remain in a stranglehold.”

A timely, significant analysis of the dire consequences of public health failures.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5417-6847-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Nov. 26, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2021

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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  • Pulitzer Prize Finalist


  • National Book Award Winner

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 5, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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BEYOND THE GENDER BINARY

From the Pocket Change Collective series

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change.

Artist and activist Vaid-Menon demonstrates how the normativity of the gender binary represses creativity and inflicts physical and emotional violence.

The author, whose parents emigrated from India, writes about how enforcement of the gender binary begins before birth and affects people in all stages of life, with people of color being especially vulnerable due to Western conceptions of gender as binary. Gender assignments create a narrative for how a person should behave, what they are allowed to like or wear, and how they express themself. Punishment of nonconformity leads to an inseparable link between gender and shame. Vaid-Menon challenges familiar arguments against gender nonconformity, breaking them down into four categories—dismissal, inconvenience, biology, and the slippery slope (fear of the consequences of acceptance). Headers in bold font create an accessible navigation experience from one analysis to the next. The prose maintains a conversational tone that feels as intimate and vulnerable as talking with a best friend. At the same time, the author's turns of phrase in moments of deep insight ring with precision and poetry. In one reflection, they write, “the most lethal part of the human body is not the fist; it is the eye. What people see and how people see it has everything to do with power.” While this short essay speaks honestly of pain and injustice, it concludes with encouragement and an invitation into a future that celebrates transformation.

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change. (writing prompt) (Nonfiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-09465-5

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: March 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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