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On Immunity: An Inoculation by Eula Biss
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On Immunity: An Inoculation

by Eula Biss

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4843432,861 (4.03)37
Upon becoming a new mother, Eula Biss addresses a chronic condition of fear: fear of the government, the medical establishment, and what is in children's food, mattresses, medicines, and vaccines. Biss investigates the metaphors and myths surrounding the 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.… (more)
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Showing 1-5 of 34 (next | show all)
I found this book such a pleasure to read - Biss is a wonderful writer and weaves history, personal essay, and call to action seamlessly. I enjoyed learning about the very interesting history of vaccines and the author's concerns as a mother and as a member of our larger community resonated with me. I haven't read the other comments about this book, but I can imagine that the book was polarizing for some folks, as it is solidly in the "vaccine if you can" camp - but it really was much more than just that. Fans of history, fans of etymology, and fans of bioethics may really enjoy it! ( )
1 vote barrettlucero | Aug 23, 2019 |
On Immunity by Eula Biss is not quite what I expected it to be. I saw the title and didn’t consider the contents. I suppose it was probably during one of the times that I got into a reading binge of vaccination-related material. Eula Biss is not a scientist, she appears to be a writer. While this does not discredit her opinions or ideas, it does surprise me that she printed her musings on vaccines in this manner. At first, I was questioning my decision to actually read this, since the subject and writing style seemed to clash in my opinion. I was actually considering dropping it for a little bit, but I am glad that I did not.

The little blurb for the book sums the book up quite succinctly. As a new mother, Eula Biss was exposed to the absolute glut of warnings about everything in our modern society. With all of the contradictory evidence and different ideas in each thing you almost need a second pair of eyes to take all of it in. It grows to be sickening if you look for it all. Back when my mother was a child, she did a ton of things that modern parents would absolutely forbid or faint at. She was playing with a sharp object and somehow managed to stab it through her own foot. My grandfather got furious at her for ruining the floor since guests were coming. Playground equipment was set in hard concrete and made out of metal. Nowadays everything is soft and made of plastic.

Using the idea of inoculation and how it has affected society, Biss recounts the story of Mighty Achilles. We all know this one, right? Thetis, the mother of Achilles, attempted to make him immortal in one of two ways depending on the story. In the one I am familiar with, Thetis dipped Achilles in the River Styx, granting him invulnerability to his entire body except where he was held. We also know that Achilles was killed by a Poisoned Arrow to the heel of his foot. Biss draws from a number of examples in literature with Dracula being the other famous one. In the same vein, Dracula arrives in London on a boat, bringing with him rats and other disease-bearing vermin. Dracula spreads his curse as a disease, with the inflicted also cursing those they preyed upon. The Doctor characters that deal with Dracula even discuss the curse in terms of science and faith.

In talking about vaccinations and other processes by which we attempt to defend ourselves Eula Biss also dips into alternative medicine. While she does not endorse them, she explains how people can derive comfort from modern day Snake Oil.

So this book is a good touchstone for our modern society and how silly everything has become in worrying and trying to protect our children from society itself. It is an impossible problem, producing children that are coddled and totally unable to accept or act within social norms. I give this one a four out of five. ( )
  Floyd3345 | Jun 15, 2019 |
I read this for Mark Zuckerberg's book club, A Year Of Books. With all the drama with measles and whether or not to vaccinate your child this was a good read due to the times. I felt like a lot of the information was no shit Sherlock material, but then you remember how many people disagree with facts & statistics despite the research backing them. For example, side effects, the book makes it clear with data that vaccinations cannot be proven to cause autism. I liked how the book explained her immunity (if majority gets vaccinated the few who can't or their body doesn't react to the vaccination are safe because they are less likely to be exposed). I hadn't drawn that conclusion, but it makes perfect sense. I felt the book lacked details at times, it was a very shallow look into vaccinations focusing on the history and reasons why parents chose not to vaccinate and then debunking their reasoning. I get why it didn't go deep because the author was telling her findings when she was researching vaccinations for her newborn son and it is a concern parents have. The book was all over the place at times and the author's obsession with vampires was getting on my nerves. Overall a good book to introduce vaccination debate and the history, plus its a quick read with 160ish pages of content.

( )
  wellreadcatlady | Oct 4, 2018 |
"as a mother...." for 200 pages. but some of the asides were ok. her unnamed sister steals the show every time she appears and I wish the book could just have been about her, honestly. ( )
  adaorhell | Aug 24, 2018 |
This is one of the best books I have ever read. Highly recommended. I can't believe it. I love a memoir. ( )
  Joanna.Oyzon | Apr 17, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 34 (next | show all)
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An exploration of the social, scientific and historical reasons behind anti-vaccine proponents and an argument against this stance.
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