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Nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award
Nestled in the Smoky Mountains of eastern Tennessee, the town of Johnson City had always seemed exempt from the anxieties of modern life. But on August 11, 1985, the local hospital treated its first AIDS patient, and before long, a crisis that had once seemed an "urban problem" had arrived in the town to stay. Working in Johnson City was Abraham Verghese, a young Indian doctor specializing in infectious diseases. Dr. Verghese became by necessity the local AIDS expert, soon besieged by a shocking number of male and female patients whose stories came to occupy his mind, and even take over his life. Verghese brought a singular perspective to Johnson City: as a medical doctor exceptional in his abilities; as an outsider who could talk to people suspicious of local practitioners; and, above all, as a writer of grace and compassion who saw that what was happening in this conservative community was both a medical and a spiritual emergency.
It is, as Dr. Verghese writes, "the story of how a generation of young men, raised to self-hatred, had risen above the definitions that their society and upbringings had used to define them. It was the story of the hard and sometimes lonely journeys they took far from home into a world more complicated than they imagined and far more dangerous than anyone could have known. There was something courageous about this voyage, the breakaway, the attempt to create places where they could live with pride. No matter how long I practice medicine, no matter what happens with the retrovirus, I will not be able to forget these young men, the little towns they came from, and the cruel, cruel irony of what awaited them in the big city."
In the tradition of Michael Harrington's The Other America, My Own Country is a work that challenges Americans to look beyond the myths they hold of themselves, to acknowledge and confront a social crisis being lived out in their midst.
"My Own Country is one of the most accurate books yet written about AIDS, but is yet so skillfully written to remain highly readable. Abraham Verghese is obviously a very special person, and My Own Country will long remain an essential work in the chronicles of the AIDS epidemic. . . . [It] tells a story of the AIDS epidemic that will be new to many readers--the perspective of a clinician with a largely rural Southern practice. Abraham Verghese writes clearly and compellingly of the layers of stigma surrounding the HIV epidemic, but also is able to help us feel his compassion for his patients and their families." —Paul A. Volberding, M.D., Professor of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco, and Director, AIDS Program, San Francisco General Hospital
"An astoundingly compassionate work of art. . . . A bestseller that, for once, deserves to be read. . . . Every physician should have a copy, should read it, loan it out, and then demand its return, so that it may be kept on the shelf for our students and successors." —The American Journal of Medicine
"With unflinching honesty and unwavering compassion, Dr. Verghese gives us a powerful story of individuals learning to cope with AIDS. The story is of community and of all its interlocking parts. We are reminded that there are no backwaters, either of community or of individuals, where this disease is concerned." —Clifton R. Cleveland, M.D., FACP, past-President, American College of Physicians
"Eloquent. . . . Remarkable. . . . An account of the plague years in American, beautifully written, fascinating and tragic, by a doctor who was changed and shaped by his patients." —Perri Klass, The New York Times Book Review