A New York Times Best Seller
A National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist
A New York Times Book Review Top 10 Book of the Year
A Facebook "Year of Books" Selection
One of the Best Books of the Year
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Why do we fear vaccines? A provocative examination by Eula Biss, the author of Notes from No Man's Land, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award
Upon becoming a new mother, Eula Biss addresses a chronic condition of fear-fear of the government, the medical establishment, and what is in your child's air, food, mattress, medicine, and vaccines. She finds that you cannot immunize your child, or yourself, from the world.
In this bold, fascinating book, Biss investigates the metaphors and myths surrounding our conception of immunity and its implications for the individual and the social body. As she hears more and more fears about vaccines, Biss researches what they mean for her own child, her immediate community, America, and the world, both historically and in the present moment. She extends a conversation with other mothers to meditations on Voltaire's Candide, Bram Stoker's Dracula, Rachel Carson's Silent Spring, Susan Sontag's AIDS and Its Metaphors, and beyond. On Immunity is a moving account of how we are all interconnected-our bodies and our fates.
Biss (Notes from No Man's Land) advocates eloquently for childhood immunization, making her case as an anxious new mother intent on protecting her son and understanding the consequences. Her exploration is both historical and emotional, and she receives some metaphorical guidance from Bram Stoker's Dracula, a story that to Biss invites an "enduring question do we believe vaccination to be more monstrous than disease?" Her son's birth coincided with an outbreak of the H1N1 flu (popularly known as "swine flu"), triggering an inquiry that involved her doctor father, other mothers, researchers, and her own copious research. Biss's study ranges from the beginnings of vaccination a "precursor to modern medicine" in the 1700s, through Andrew Wakefield's disastrous, and later retracted, 1998 study that proposed the MMR vaccine might be linked to autism. Protecting her baby set off an "intuitive toxicology," Biss writes, but grew to understand that we harbor "more microorganisms in our guts than we have cells in our bodies." She comes down hard on Robert Sears, author of The Vaccine Book, which suggests an alternate shots schedule, for his "equivocal" conclusions, and defends oft-criticized pediatrician Paul Offit for his research and integrity. Biss frankly and optimistically looks at our "unkempt" world and our shared mission to protect one another.