This is a story about Bea, a single woman professor who has just had a caeserian section for an 11 pound boy, and her hospital roommate, Corinne. Bea describes her own discomfort with Corinne’s race, while admiring Corinne’s pride and nurturance toward her newborn son. As the story progresses, Corinne is betrayed by the medical world in a multitude of ways: misdiagnosis, racist treatment, denial of medical treatment, and incompetent care, resulting in Corinne’s sepsis and her son’s eventual death.

At the end of the story, after Corinne and Bea are discharged from the hospital, Bea tries to visit Corinne and deliver the pictures of her child that Corinne hadn’t been able to afford. But at the last minute, Bea turns away. Although she wants to help, she feels wholly inadequate, and believes she will only cause Corinne pain. Ironically, Bea remembers her last night in the hospital, how she covered her ears as Corinne’s baby whimpered, and as her own breasts surged with milk for the crying child. Even though her instincts and body tell her what to do for Corinne, she is not able to listen.


This is a well written and powerful story. While medical professionals may feel that they could never be overtly racist, the attitudes toward black women like Corinne are ever present in the medical world. The narrator’s inept attempts to help her and reach out to her ring true. The narrator is so self-conscious and preoccupied with her own identity, that she is unable to simply be human. This is a must-read for all medical professionals and students.


Published in Ploughshares, 1994 (100 Beacon St., Boston MA)

Primary Source

The 1996 Pushcart Prize XX: Best of the Small Presses



Place Published

Wainscott, N.Y.




Bill Henderson

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