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My Own Country: A Doctor's Story (1994)

by Abraham Verghese

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9742916,454 (4.24)124
A young doctor of eastern Tennessee describes the town's first introduction to the AIDS virus, which preceded a disturbing epidemic and introduced the doctor to many unique people.
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I loved Abraham Verghese's Cutting for Stone and found this non-fiction description of his experiences as an infectious disease doctor in a small town during the dawn of the AIDS crisis fascinating. ( )
  chasidar | Jun 9, 2019 |
I lot of folks I know avoid nonfiction books like the plague. I suspect they read one too many dry history books in school and think all nonfiction is BORING. To that I always offer that they try a better class of book to read. Then, this particular nonfiction book comes along. Well, came along is more accurate. Written in the early 90s about the HIV/AIDS explosion during the 80s, this is a memoir of a particular doctor, the author, born in India, raised in Ethiopia, trained in big city American medicine, but now working in rural and small town Tennessee on a task that, at the time, scared folks nearly to death. One could certainly read this book as a so-called AIDS book, for that it certainly is. And yet, one of my very first thoughts as I started reading this is that this much more like reading To Kill a Mockingbird than some stuffy history book. Without any pretentiousness to his style, the author draws us intimately into his new community. Whether it's his nurses or his car mechanic, his fellow Indian American neighbors or his local tennis partner, everyone he introduces us to is accepted for who and what they are, without judgment, and we like him for it, just as his community of neighbors and co-workers and patients do, also. Indeed, the best, the most compelling parts of this book are the conversations that the doctor/author has with a number of his patients and their family. The degree of personal interaction is astounding. While the reader who has not been previously introduced to the disease up close and personally will have plenty to confront, the book is really about our humanity and how we struggle with it and how we share it with others in our own very separate ways. It's almost beside the point that this book is about AIDS. On those occasions when I have asked my wife what her favorite books are, this book was always mentioned. She first read it back when it first was released. For me, I can say without hesitation that no other book I have ever read has brought tears to my eyes so spontaneously and so often. And yet, I don't think it's because it is often sad, which it clearly is. I think it's because it represents the best in our ability to be truly human, a choice we are all too willing to bypass. I don't know if I would have felt this way if it had been one of my first introductions to a devastating disease. It wasn't, and I'm very glad I was able to see all the way into the book's beauty without distraction. ( )
  larryerick | Apr 26, 2018 |
Well-written, highly readable medical and personal memoir by an infectious disease specialist who became the primary care physician for AIDS patients in a rural Tennessee community just as the disease was starting to make itself known in that culture. Compassionate and informative.
Review written March 2009 ( )
  laytonwoman3rd | Apr 10, 2017 |
Dr. Verghese writes movingly about his early work with HIV and AIDS patients, mostly in the early to mid 1980s, the years of discovery and fear and unscreened blood supplies. He moved his family to a small town in Tennessee and, although he doubted it, he fit in well there and people loved and admired him. The work was grueling and stigmatizing, keeping him from his family a good deal of the time. This is the story of some of Dr. Verghese's patients and the life-changing effects they had on him. It's also the story of a kind, wise, thoughtful and committed doctor who turned no one away at a time when everyone was turning them away. It's the story of the early HIV epidemic and how it arrived in small towns. Innocent people contracted this virus through blood transfusions, and it's their story as well.

If you don't know much about HIV, the book is educational. If you have HIV or know much about it, the story may resonate with you and you'll wish Dr. Verghese was your doctor, willing to also be your friend during the worst of times. ( )
  Rascalstar | Jan 21, 2017 |
I read this book because I so enjoyed Verghese's semi-autobiographical novel, "Cutting for Stone." I wasn't disappointed. Vergehese was born in Ethiopia of Indian parents and came to the U.S. with his family when the Ehtopian emperor, Haile Selassie I, was deposed. He later went to India to complete his medical education and, due to the influence of a well-respected mentor, decided to specialize in infectious diseases. When he returned to the United States he accepted a residency in the small southern town of Johnson City, Tennessee. After his residency he spent two years at Boston City University, ultimately returning to Johnson City. This book focuses on his burgeoning practice dealing with the first AIDS patients in this small, southern town. Many of his gay patients had been born in or near Johnson City and left for the big cities and the freedom they could experience there, returning only when they discovered they had the HIV virus and were out of options. Others were infected by their loved ones or blood transfusions. Verghese, who himself feels like an outsider as a foreigner in this small Bible-belt town, takes the time to really listen to their life histories and understand their current situations, and becomes emotionally involved in their lives. His portrayal of the affilicted patients' experiences with their illness, and his reactions as he tries to improve their lives, are completely engrossing. He has a great compassion for those he serves and I was left wondering what happened next both in their lives and his. I will definitely be adding his second book, "The Tennis Partner: A Story of Friendship and Loss," to my TBR list. ( )
  LeslieHurd | Jan 11, 2017 |
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A young doctor of eastern Tennessee describes the town's first introduction to the AIDS virus, which preceded a disturbing epidemic and introduced the doctor to many unique people.

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