From Chris Garland
Author: Victoria Sweet
Title: God’s hotel : a doctor, a hospital, and a pilgrimage to the heart of medicine
Victoria Sweet chronicles her experience as a physician at San Francisco’s Laguna Honda Hospital which is cited as the last almshouse in the U.S. The almshouse was a place of refuge, housing people who were chronically ill or impoverished with no place else to go. Many times Dr. Sweet’s patients would come to Laguna Honda with an incorrect diagnosis from the county hospital, because the patients were not carefully examined. These diagnoses would lead to bad treatment and the patients getting sicker. Dr. Sweet asserts that modern medical treatment relies too much on tests, x-rays and less on the doctor’s physical examination of the patient. The reason is money. Doctors are paid by the amount of patients they see, so examinations must be quick to maintain financial viability. As a result, efficiency and managing disease are stressed over treatment that is more hands on with the doctor. Working at Laguna Honda, Dr. Sweet had the luxury to practice what she calls slow medicine which is just taking the time to talk to and examine and even re-examine a patient; to consult other doctors, to go over lab tests and X-rays, to think about a diagnosis, to discontinue medications that are no longer needed, and to try a new medication—but carefully. Dr. Sweet feels that slow medicine is efficient because it’s about restoring health not managing disease, and saves money. The current fast medicine practiced in the U.S. is very expensive and the outcomes for patients are worse.
The author discusses how her studies of ancient medicine influenced her work, specifically the twelfth-century mystic and nun Hildegarde of Bingen who wrote a practical medical text. Sweet even applied some of Hildegarde’s methods to her patients when she ran out of modern medical tools. She would say to herself “What would Hildegarde do?” To the best of her ability, she would consult Hildegarde’s texts and apply the treatment to her patients, and for the most part she had positive results. Dr. Sweet beautifully highlights how the Laguna Honda almshouse gave her the opportunity to learn about ancient and modern medicine, and ideas to improve healthcare.
From: Ellen Druda
Author: Seán Ó Cualáin
Title: Men at lunch [videorecording DVD] : the untold story of a city’s legend
You’ve seen the photograph: men sitting atop a steel construction beam, casually enjoying a lunch and cigarette break, boots dangling in the air with New York City hundreds of feet below. I can’t even look at it without lurching into vertigo. This documentary tells the story of the photograph – how it might have been taken, who the mystery photographer was, and attempts to identify the men in the picture too. The photo archives of the holder of the original negative reveals clues about the identity of the men involved, and from there filmmaker Seán Ó Cualáin pursues the friends and relatives of the names in order to finally establish the facts. It’s fun to follow along, and while back-tracking the story of this particular picture, Ó Cualáin also tells the story of immigration, particularly the Irish, and its importance in shaping New York City. Men at Lunch is for fans of the Big Apple and the role the Irish played in its history.
From Andrea Kalinowski
Author: Alex Grecian
Title: The Black Country
The Black Country: a novel of Scotland Yard’s Murder Squad by Alex Grecian is the second installment of Scotland Yard’s Murder Squad and, to me, contained traces reminiscent of a crime which truly occurred. For more information on the true crime case, please see The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher: a shocking murder and the undoing of a great Victorian detective by Kate Summerscale. The Murder Squad is sent to the black country or coal country to find some missing family members. Sutton Price, his wife, and his youngest son have disappeared. The three older children are fine and are being cared for by the housekeeper and watched over by the townspeople. Meanwhile, the detectives are trying to find the missing family members and being hindered by the superstitious nature of the townsfolk and by the fact that the ground is slowly giving away due to the tunnels being carved beneath for coal mining. Sutton Price’s second wife is his children’s former nanny and the children view her as an interloper. The first wife ran away. The detectives do finally succeed in unraveling the whole miserable tale in the place that is causing such trouble for the townspeople, the mineshafts. The youngest son was murdered by a most unusual suspect and gave me pause because it forces one to consider the nature versus nurture argument. Is evil learned or is it an innate force? The Black Country is an excellent read for those who appreciate a good mystery.
From Edna Susman
Author: Gabrielle Ford
Title: Gabe & Izzy : standing up for America’s bullied
The author, Gabrielle Ford, developed a degenerative neuromuscular disease, Friedreich’s Ataxia, at the age of 12 which eventually placed her in a wheelchair. She became the subject of constant bullying from classmates until she got a puppy, Izzy, who began to display similar muscular problems. So began a supportive, uplifting relationship which they took on the road as public motivational speakers on an anti-bullying campaign. This is a timely story and helpful read, especially for young people with disabilities as well as those who bully or are bullied.
From Ellen Druda
Author: Teju Prasad
Title: Not a feather, but a dot [videorecording DVD]
Like many immigrant groups, Indian-Americans have had to deal with prejudice, stereotypes, and just plain ignorance. Teju Prasad is a young, imaginative filmmaker with family and cultural roots in India. His documentary film explains the origins of some of the stereotypes and common misconceptions of Indians, and then he pokes fun at some of the sillier ones using skits, animations, and unexpected interruptions. While the story of ignorance between different immigrant groups is the same for many, Prasad presents the Indian-American view in a way both informative and friendly. This will appeal to teens and young adults because of its light-hearted tone. This is a great discussion starter on the subjects of prejudice and cultural differences.