Showing 121 - 130 of 233 annotations tagged with the keyword "Public Health"

Heroes and Saints

Moraga, CherrĂ­e

Last Updated: Dec-14-2006
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Plays

Genre: Play

Summary:

This searing play takes place in California's central valley where Mexican immigrants are employed at survival wages to work in fields poisoned by pesticides. Their ramshackle government homes are built over dumps where toxic waste poisons the water. The community has suffered a high incidence of cancer--especially in children--, birth defects, and other illnesses related to long-term intake of toxic substances.

One of the main characters, Cerezita, has only half a body, and often occupies center stage encased in an altar-like contraption where only her head shows. She turns pages, points, and performs other basic functions with tongue and teeth. She is a prophetic figure, willing to see and speak, because seeing and speaking are all she can do, and to name the evils that others prefer to call the will of God.

She seeks and finds intellectual companionship in the local priest who is struggling to find an appropriate way to minister to a parish divided among disillusioned cynics turned alcoholic, pious women who want nothing to do with politics, and the angry young, including one young homosexual who feels driven to leave a loving but uncomprehending family, and reveals to the priest that he has AIDS.

The community has been involved in recent protests that consist of hanging the bodies of recently deceased children on crosses in the fields. This dramatic protest has caused public outrage and attracted media attention. The play culminates in a protest in which Cerezita and the priest are shot down and the young man with AIDS cries out for the community to burn the fields. The curtain falls on burning vineyards.

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Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel for Young Adults

Summary:

Thirteen-year-old Jessie Keyser likes to accompany her mother, a midwife, to homes where there are births or illnesses. Her father is a blacksmith. She and her five siblings live in a log cabin in a small village. They believe the year is 1840. What Jessie doesn't know is that she lives in a replica of a 19th-century village and that the year is actually 1996.

When local children begin to fall ill of diphtheria, Jessie's mother takes her into the woods, provides her with food, blue jeans and a T-shirt, instructions on how to use a telephone, and amazing stories of the world outside that she and Jessie's father left when they joined the experimental colony. Jessie learns that tourists view them at their daily activities through hidden cameras. Now she is to escape and get needed medicine.

Armed guards surround the village. Safely outside the gates, Jessie wanders disoriented in 1996, looking for someone safe to ask for help. She finally talks to reporters who broadcast the news and send help immediately to the town. Medicines are brought and some children saved, though diphtheria has taken several lives. Jessie enters the present with some ambivalence, realizing there are large tradeoffs to leaving the simplicity of the past.

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The Spanish Doctor

Cohen, Matt

Last Updated: Dec-14-2006
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

The story of Avram Halevi of Toledo, a late 14th-century Jewish doctor forced to convert to Christianity at the age of ten. He becomes a physician and surgeon in Montpellier and returns to the poor Jewish sector of his native city to live a dangerous professional life, serving the Christian rich. His relationship with the beautiful, ambitious Gabriela founders as his people are scattered in yet another attack by misguided Christian zealots.

His cousin, Antonio, is cruelly tortured and Halevi euthanizes him in prison. Escaping Toledo, he returns to Montpellier where he finds friends, a wife, a family, and eventually a professorship--but religious rivalry again intervenes through the brutality of a worldly cardinal. Try as he might to remain above the fray of religious and political struggles, Halevi is stripped of all he holds dear and dragged into controversy again because he senses what is morally right.

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The Gifts of the Body

Brown, Rebecca

Last Updated: Dec-14-2006
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Collection (Short Stories)

Summary:

The narrator in each of the stories in this unusual collection is a home-care worker who helps people with AIDS. Each story focuses on a "gift," i.e. "The Gift of Sweat"; "The Gift of Tears"; "The Gift of Mobility" and so on. In each, we see scenes in the weeks or months shared by caregiver and patient. The patients vary widely in age, life situation, stage of illness, and attitude toward both the illness and the caregiver.

The caregiver/narrator also changes somewhat from one story to another, giving the reader some sense of the different stresses and rewards that come in the course of such work. The details of caregiving are elaborated in ways that are sometimes mundane, sometimes surprising, sometimes funny, sometimes harsh, often touching, and always straightforward.

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Saying the World

Pereira, Peter

Last Updated: Dec-14-2006
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Summary:

This three-part collection of poems offers powerful images and vignettes from the life of a family practitioner living and working among the urban poor. The first section is the most explicitly medical in theme, including poems that pay painful tribute to a mother after stillbirth, a hydrocephalic child, an addict covered with boils, a young man murdered at eighteen, an old man with a failing heart.

The second section weaves images from the writer's personal story together with those from his life as physician, and the third focuses primarily on life lived as a gay man among the sick and dying, patients to be treated and friends to be mourned while life remains to be claimed and savored.

Despite the pain and grief attested to in many of the poems, a lively voice of clarity, compassion, and consent to the goodness of life even on hard terms gives the collection a defining note of celebration. Pereira's lines about a bereaved Cambodian seamstress suggest something true about his own work: ". . . she joins the circle / of other Khmer women to sew. / Punctuating the fabric / with yellow thread, finding her remnants / into a piece that will hold." ("What is Lost")

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Babylon Boyz

Mowry, Jess

Last Updated: Dec-14-2006
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel for Young Adults

Summary:

Pook, Dante, and Wyatt inhabit the social margins of an inner-city school in Oakland. Pook's family has disintegrated from drug trade, Dante needs a heart operation he can't afford as a result of his now-dead mother's addiction to crack cocaine, Wyatt, slowed and ostracized by obesity, provides a frequent refuge for the other two at his mother's rundown dockside café. The three of them are no strangers to the violence of drug-infested neighborhoods, Wyatt manages to smuggle a gun into the schoolyard despite metal detectors, but none of the boys is eager to use weapons. They are "homies," committed to each other's survival, and intensely loyal.

Radgi, a younger, smaller homeless kid, follows them for occasional handouts and eventually is taken into Dante's apartment where his father, a dock worker, is frequently absent. All are threatened repeatedly by "Air Touch," a leader in the local drug trade who deals with smugglers and rich white patrons. Another occasional friend is Kelly, a Korean boy whose father runs a convenience store in the "hood."

The plot follows the fortunes of the boys after they witness the police beating Air Torch, see him toss his gun and briefcase away before being apprehended, and pick up both as they run for home. In the briefcase is a load of cocaine ready for sale. They have to decide whether to sell it to get the money for Dante's operation or pour it down the toilet. They sell the gun with the help of Kelly who, discovered by Air Torch, is killed, along with his father.

Eventually, after some hair-raising close calls, the boys get rid of the drugs, assemble in Dante's apartment, and discover that the petite Radgi, who they thought was bloated from starvation, is a girl, about to have a baby as a result of rape. Pook, who longs to be a doctor and has read a medical book sequestered among his few possessions, helps deliver the child, a "little brutha."

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Love in the Driest Season

Tucker, Neely

Last Updated: Dec-14-2006
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

Neely Tucker, a white journalist from Mississippi on assignment to Zimbabwe, and his wife, Vita, an African American from Detroit, volunteer to spend time with orphaned and abandoned children, many victims of the desperation caused by AIDS. In the orphanage, where a distressing number of children die due to lack of medicines or basic materials, or lack of adequate staff training, they come upon and find themselves deeply drawn to a particularly tiny, sick, vulnerable baby, abandoned in the desert. The director of the orphanage picks a name for her as she does for the other orphans: Chipo.

The Tuckers arrange to take her home, first for weekend care visits, hoping thereafter to do a more permanent foster care arrangement and then adopt her. A long story of struggle with Zimbabwean bureaucracy ensues, through which one learns much about suspicion of white Americans who want children, the ways in which child care becomes one more issue in partisan politics, and how abandoned children are caught in adults’ power struggles. Interspersed with this moving story are brief accounts of sometimes harrowing trips to other parts of Africa, including sites of major warfare in Rwanda and Uganda.

Tucker also intersperses memories of encounters with families in Bosnia during his work there. Ultimately, and only after much persistence, empathetic individuals in the system, and some newly learned under-the-table skills, the adoption papers come through and the family makes its way back to American where Tucker begins his ongoing assignment at the Washington Post.

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Coachella

Taylor, Sheila Ortiz

Last Updated: Dec-12-2006
Annotated by:
Stanford, Ann Folwell

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Yolanda Ramírez, a phlebotomist in Coachella Valley, California, begins worrying, in 1983, about the deaths of gay men, hemophiliacs, and women who have had cosmetic surgery. The novel unfolds with her explorations into the connections among these deaths, but it also explores Yolanda’s relationship with a gay couple, one of whose members has AIDS, the growing romantic relationship between her and Marina Lomas (who has run away from an abusive husband with her small daughter), her relationship with her father, Crescienco.

Crescienco, employed as a gardener for Eliana Townsend (whom he loves and who still has the scars from her cosmetic surgery), watches her slowly die from some mysterious and debilitating disease. Finally Yolanda convinces the hospital that her hunches about the mysterious AIDS virus having infected the blood supply are correct.

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The Coldest Winter Ever

Souljah, Sister

Last Updated: Dec-12-2006
Annotated by:
Stanford, Ann Folwell

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Streetwise, smart, and tough Winter Santiaga is the "phat" and "fly" daughter of a Brooklyn drug kingpin, and is also the main character in this novel. She and her sisters, Lexus, Mercedes, and Porsche have grown up used to a life of luxury afforded by her father's protective but lavish attentions on them.

They are contemptuous of all but the best labels for clothes, perfumes, and shoes. Her mother dresses like a queen and, with her family, enjoys life in a beautiful house that Winter's father buys them in the suburbs. The life all comes crashing down around them when her father is arrested and locked up, and the government takes all the family's money and possessions.

Winter's younger sisters are farmed out to foster families and her mother descends into crack cocaine addiction. Sister Souljah, who in a move many critics call a serious misstep, casts herself in the novel as the moral compass, opens her home to Winter, who lives there for a while, listening to Souljah's messages of self-love and community building. Never buying the rap, Winter drifts from man to man, finally herself is arrested for drug related charges and winds up serving a 15-year sentence for having (as she says) "a bad attitude."

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Annotated by:
Woodcock, John

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

This film rendition of Randy Shilts's documentary book by the same name tells the scientific, political, and human story of the first five years of AIDS in the U.S.--roughly 1980-85. Mainly it is a story of dedicated medical researchers groping to understand the horrifying and mysterious new disease and simultaneously battling the public fear and indifference that prevented, during those Reagan years, both public funding of their research and acceptance of their findings.

The central figure is Dr. Don Francis (Matthew Modine), veteran of the World Health Organization's smallpox eradication program, and the horrifying outbreak of hemorrhagic fever along the Ebola River in central Africa in 1976. Working at the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta with no money and no space, Francis pursues his theory that AIDS is caused by a sexually-transmitted virus on the model of feline leukemia. His individual antagonist is Dr. Robert Gallo (Alan Alda), the discoverer of HTLV (the human T-cell leukemia virus), who cuts off assistance when he hears that Francis has shared some experimental materials with French researchers. (Gallo sees the French team mainly as his rivals for a Nobel prize.) Gallo finally claims a French retrovirus discovery as his own and thereby acquires a coveted patent.

Besides lab work and big scientific egos, the film shows us lots of grass-roots, shoe-leather epidemiology, especially in San Francisco; the laborious questioning of AIDS patients about their sexual histories, in search of the chain of infection and its beginning, "patient zero." The film's plot ends with Reagan's 1984 re-election and Francis's departure for San Francisco to set up as an independent researcher. Preceding the credits are a number of updates that take AIDS and the story's heroes and villains from 1985 to 1993, all this appearing over stills of famous AIDS victims and crusaders.

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