Resisting the easy narrative which many memoirs follow in dealing with chronic illness, Khakpour reenacts the struggle not toward resolution, but simply toward diagnosis itself. Organized by setting and suffused with uncertainty and a sense of dislocation, Sick is a story of transformation and struggle that refuses defensiveness or moralizing. Placing herself in a history of women who have been treated as unreliable witnesses to the chaos inside of them, the book also becomes, in its own way, a feminist consideration of illness and treatment.
In How To Survive a Plague, David France is both a witness and a journalist, documenting the movement that fought to make AIDS a manageable disease rather than a death sentence. The book is not just about the collective movement, but also about individual activists, people who were faced with something unprecedented and had to fight against neglect, discrimination, and ignorance to save their lives and lives of their friends. This history is And The Band Played On for the new generation, a behind-the-scenes comprehensive work of journalism and a deeply personal account. In its depiction of activists’ struggle, it is also an inspiring book, showing us what can be done by determined and desperate people in unfriendly and uncertain times.
No hospital in American history has been the source of more lore, whispers, and tabloid exposés than New York’s Bellevue. David Oshinsky’s well-researched historical account, Bellevue: Three Centuries of Medicine and Mayhem at America’s Most Storied Hospital (Doubleday, $30), makes for reading as compelling as any true-crime thriller. The author of Polio and Worse than Slavery, Oshinksy delves bravely into all the corridors of Bellevue’s past. On the one hand Bellevue was one of the largest hospitals in American history and housed many of the best medical researchers, attending physicians, and professional nurses of the nineteenth century. On the other, it was viewed as a “bare-bones receptacle for the poorest of the poor, the dregs of society, the semi-criminal, starving, unwelcome class, who suffer and die unrecognized.” An absorbing topic, no doubt, and when you package it with Oshinsky’s easy writing style, you’ll spend hours engrossed in this book only to emerge wondering where the time has gone.