Tuesday, February 24, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: On Immunity. An Inoculation by Eula Biss

I’ve got a mini nonfiction binge going. My latest read is On Immunity. An Inoculation by Eula Biss. I bought this book for my niece for Christmas because in the past we’ve shared an enthusiasm for Henrietta Lacks and The Emperor of All Maladies, and I was looking for something in the same vein. I read a blurb that made me think this exploration of vaccination would be along the same lines, but I didn’t have time to read it before giving it as a gift. I wanted to read it afterward though. With the current measles outbreak, it seems even more timely.

Biss approaches the topic of immunity and vaccination in a book that reads as a collection of essays. She does touch on the history of immunization and the science behind it, but she also talks about her experiences as a mother and her interactions with other mothers. She talks about advice received from her physician father, and how that influences her decision-making process. She talks about parental fear. She delves into the ethics of vaccination. This is loosely woven together with themes of Greek mythology (Achilles was ‘made immune’ to injury- but not really) and gothic horror (Dracula demonstrates a deep-rooted fear of contagion.)

This is a quick and easy read that shows both sides of the vaccination discussion, though coming down firmly on the pro-vaccination side. The essays are thoughtful and heartfelt, but I can’t say that anything in the book stuck with me the way Henrietta Lacks or Emperor of All Maladies did. It may be that it was a little too personal–relying a little too much on anecdote and musing to have the depth and heft I’d have liked.

1 comment:

  1. I've heard a little bit about this book, but not heard from anyone who had read it til now. It sounds somewhat intriguing but I have too many medical nonfiction to read before it I think.