Showing 351 - 360 of 740 Nonfiction annotations

Inside a Moroccan Bath

Shaykh, Hanan al-

Last Updated: Jan-08-2007
Annotated by:
Wear, Delese

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Essay

Summary:

This is an essay from Patricia Foster's collection, Minding the Body: Women Writers on Body and Soul. The narrator describes her startling reversal to shame over her thin body as she sits in a women's bath house in Morocco with her Moroccan friend, shocked by the discovery that she was not completely at ease with the shape of her body, having thought she'd gone well beyond that stage.

Growing up in a culture that viewed thinness the way modern U.S. culture views fleshiness, the narrator describes her strong sense of unworthiness and disgrace and the jealousy she felt for the "ripe, round cheeks of the other girls, and their chubby arms and legs." Now more comfortable in her body, she is still struck by the ancient standards of beauty--thin or heavy--that are decreed by men. In this Moroccan bath, plumpness means that "women still stick to the rule that says that the male eye is the only mirror where [women] can see their true reflection."

View full annotation

Annotated by:
Wear, Delese

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Investigative Journalism

Summary:

To find out how humans live and survive in minimum-wage America--particularly women who were at the time about to be pushed into the labor market because of "welfare reform"--writer Barbara Ehrenreich moved three times, from Florida to Maine to Minnesota, and worked as a waitress, a hotel maid, a house cleaner, a nursing home aide, and a Wal-Mart employee.

The "rules" of her project (1) prohibited her from falling back on skills available to her because of her education (a PhD in biology) or previous work (an essayist with 11 books); (2) required that she take the highest-paying job offered to her and do her best to keep it; and (3) dictated that she take the cheapest accommodations she could find. The idea was to spend a month in each setting and to see if she could find a job and make enough money to pay a second month's rent. The book, then, tells her story of trying to make ends meet, what "millions of Americans do . . . every day, and with a lot less fanfare and dithering."

View full annotation

Annotated by:
Wear, Delese

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Criticism

Summary:

Subtitled Women Novelists of Color and the Politics of Medicine, this book draws on novels by eleven women to illustrate how physical and emotional states of health and illness are linked directly to social justice. The book is divided into two parts. The first five chapters deal with individual characters, their illnesses, and sometimes their healing: Toni Cade Bambara's The Salt Eaters, Paule Marshall's Praisesong for the Widow, Gloria Naylor's The Women of Brewster Place: A Novel in Seven Stories, Leslie Marmon Silko's Ceremony, Toni Morrison's Beloved and The Bluest Eye, Louise Erdrich's Tracks, and Sapphire's Push are among the works Stanford uses to examine women who have become ill because of broken ties to their histories and communities, because of racial hatred, or because of domestic and sexual violence (see this database for annotations).

The second part of the book finds novels examining medicine itself. Stanford uses Ana Castillo's So Far from God, Gloria Naylor's Mama Day (annotated in this database), Leslie Marmon Silko's Almanac of the Dead: A Novel (annotated in this database), and Octavia Butler's Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talents again to raise connections between patients and social conditions but also to ask questions about bioethics and uncertainty, medicine and epistemology, and how medicine might resist dehumanizing trends through the "myriad possibilities of communitas" (218).

View full annotation

Down from Troy

Selzer, Richard

Last Updated: Jan-05-2007
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

Richard Selzer’s memoir is subtitled “A Doctor Comes of Age.” The book is structured around childhood memories, interspersed with stories from more recent times. Selzer’s father, a general practitioner in Troy, New York, serves as the focal point for most of his early memories--a commanding figure of warmth and goodness in his son’s life: “If I have failed to describe father… it is because none of his features did him justice. I should have had to mention wings in order to do that.” (p. 152)

While his father brought science into Selzer’s life, his mother represented the world of art. She was an amateur singer with a “small pure soprano voice” (p. 15), as well as being the doctor’s wife. After the doctor’s death from a massive heart attack when Selzer was 12 years old, his mother had numerous suitors, at least some of whom she eventually married. When he went to college, she began a life-long practice of writing her younger son (Selzer has an older brother William) weekly letters, including such advice as “Rise and flee the reeling faun,” “You do not take enough chances” and “You must learn to be absurd.” (p.227)

Toward the end of Down from Troy, Selzer writes of his parents, “Of all the satisfactions of my life, the greatest is that I have at last fulfilled each of their ambitions.” (p. 251) This is in reference to his having practiced both surgery and writing. He goes on to enumerate the many unexpected similarities between the two professions. The book ends with a narrative that brings together narrative and medicine, the story of a retired surgeon who reaches out to help a young man dying of AIDS.

View full annotation

Annotated by:
Kennedy, Meegan

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: History

Summary:

Winter surveys the rise and fall of mesmerism in Victorian Britain, from animal magnetism to hypnotism, including electrobiology (a form of group hysteria), table-turning, and other fads. The book offers rich detail about the different stages of the use of mesmerism in medicine: its initial appearance in staged experiments; its uncertain status and the struggle to locate the boundary demarcating alternative medicines; its performance by professional medical men as well as travelers and quacks; its importance in the development of anesthesia; and its role in prompting skeptical scientists to consider the possibility of mental reflexes as one way to explain away mesmeric phenomena.

Winter argues that mesmerism was not "illegitimate" so much as it brought "legitimacy" itself - of medical authority, of evidence, of knowledge -- into question. Thus, she argues, mesmerism crucially inspired many of the considerable changes in nineteenth-century medicine as well as the reorganization of science and the educational reforms of the later nineteenth century. The book also discusses mesmerism as a form of religion, as a conduit for spiritualism and communication with the dead, as a catalyst in orchestral conducting, and as a model for liberal political consensus.

View full annotation

Annotated by:
Kennedy, Meegan

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Criticism

Summary:

Bewell examines the rise of "colonial geography," the assumption that disease naturally belongs to the colonial setting. He argues that British colonialism was "profoundly structured" by disease encounters, as diseases began to piggyback on the increased mobility of both troops and trade (2). The book traces colonial disease as both figure and reality in travel journals, diaries, medical treatises, prose, and poetry of the eighteenth century and the Romantic period. It focuses on the rising British anxiety about colonial disease from the mid-eighteenth through the mid-nineteenth century.

Romanticism and Colonial Disease examines the development of the field of medical geography, tracing the cultural meaning of various disease theories focused on climate, topography (disease landscapes), diet, habit, gender, and of course race. Bewell argues that British identity was based on a relational model, in which national health, and even "British" diseases such as tuberculosis, could be understood only in contrast to the tropical diseases that defined colonial lands.

The Asiatic cholera pandemic of 1817, as it approached ever nearer to British shores, shook the nation by explicitly showing that colonial disease had become global. Chapters focus on specific projects and problems, such as the doomed attempts to explore the Niger River and "open" West Africa to European trade, or the problem of the diseased colonial soldier, rather than tracing a general history.

Bewell includes readings of Tobias Smollett, Oliver Goldsmith, William Wordsworth, SAmuel Taylor Coleridge, George Gordon Byron, William Hogarth, Thomas De Quincey, John Keats, Charlotte Bronte, and the Shelleys, as well as little-known writers like Joseph Ritchie and Thomas Medwin.

View full annotation

Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

This story of love and marriage under the shadow of AIDS travels a couple's unlikely journey from meeting to courtship to disclosure of the male partner's AIDS, through a subsequent breakup, then a decision to marry, and four years of almost inexplicably happy marriage dogged from the beginning by the specter of death.

Over this time the couple has a chance to explore their respective understandings of the life of the spirit and for Hyung Goo to entertain and reject a number of avenues of comfort before joining his wife, a Presbyterian theologian and seminary professor, in her faith. Much of their short life together is lived in the context of intersecting circles of medical people and church community, in both of which they are active participants whose challenging marriage becomes a mirror and a lamp to their cohort.

View full annotation

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.

View full annotation

Summary:

This collection is introduced with an essay by Suzanne Poirier (editor of the journal, Literature and Medicine). The collection, describes Poirier, looks at how such equations as "sex = disease, homosexuality = disease, promiscuity = disease, and, finally, homosexuality = promiscuity = disease" are, in fact, being challenged, resisted, and "rewritten in a healing way in today's writing about the epidemic [found] in the literary presses, obituary columns, and even freshman compositions." The book contains thirteen essays and an annotated bibliography of AIDS literature from 1982 through 1991.

View full annotation

Annotated by:
Stanford, Ann Folwell

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

South African lawyer and leading member of the ANC (African National Congress) during the tumultuous 70s and 80s, lost an arm, sight in one eye, and suffered hearing loss and diminished use of his legs when the bomb planted in his car exploded on April 7, 1988. This book chronicles the accident, his long recovery in a hospital and rehabilitation unit, and the process of re-entering life and politics after such a harrowing experience.

Sachs connects his personal recovery with the emergence of an apartheid-free South Africa and tells his individual story within the context of political struggle. The 2000 edition includes a forward by Desmond Tutu, an introduction by Nancy Scheper-Hughes, and a new epilogue by Sachs.

View full annotation