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Book: Black Health: The Social, Political, and Cultural Determinants of Black People's Health (Bioethics for Social Justice) by Keisha Ray

Facilitator: Gretchen Case, PhD, MA

From Gretchen:  Medical humanities and bioethics scholar Keisha Ray wrote Black Health: The Social, Political, and Cultural Determinants of Black People’s Health to address the complex and confounding ways that race is attributed to health outcomes for Black people. She explores compelling stories of individual and community experiences to counterbalance stark statistics and prevailing narratives of Black bodies as somehow difficult or especially susceptible to poor health. Instead, she emphasizes why it is important to look at environmental and other factors beyond any one person. Dr. Ray’s book is written to be accessible to a wide range of readers, avoiding medical or academic jargon, and raises issues regarding health and healthcare that matter to everyone.   
As part of her visit to the U for the Cowan-Mayden Lectureship, Dr. Ray will join us for the discussion. 


Book: What My Bones Know: A Memoir of Healing from Complex Trauma by Stephanie Foo

Facilitator: Mark Matheson, DPhil

From Mark:  In March we’ll be discussing a new book by the journalist Stephanie Foo, What My Bones Know: A Memoir of Healing from Complex Trauma. In this work Foo explores her own experience with “Complex PTSD,” which is identified as the result not of a single catastrophic event but of continual trauma over many years. Foo was abused and then abandoned by her parents as a teenager, and in early adulthood she had engaged with her condition and sought healing through various therapies. The book thus takes its place in a series of works on PTSD that our group has studied, perhaps most recently Bessel van der Kolk’s The Body Keeps the Score. It will be a further opportunity for us to assess the efficacy of recently developed therapies for PTSD, and Foo’s work is also being understood in additional ways, including as a record of Asian-American experience. I look forward to getting your responses to this challenging book.


Book: Libertie: A Novel by Kaitlyn Greenidge

Facilitator: Rachel Borup, PhD

From Rachel: Kaitlyn Greenidge’s second novel, Libertie, is inspired by the life of Susan Smith McKinney Steward, the first Black female doctor in New York State.  Like Steward, Greenidge’s character founded a medical clinic in a Black community and was revered for her contributions to this community.  The novel focuses on Steward’s daughter, Libertie, who grows up watching her mother competently tend to her patients’ needs and is initially inspired to follow in her mother’s footsteps.  The novel is a coming-of-age story that follows Libertie’s individuation and progress into adulthood, and poignantly depicts the tensions that eventually arise between the light-skinned mother and dark-skinned daughter and the harm created by colorism within the Black community. 


Book: A Life in Light: Meditations on Impermanence by Mary Pipher

Facilitator: Susan Sample, PhD, MFA

From Susan: In her newest book, a memoir in essays, Mary Pipher draws on her many years’ experience as a psychologist helping people create “empowering life stories” to reflect upon her own life. During the pandemic, Pipher felt keenly isolated from family and friends, which was intensified as she turned seventy: “I needed to look inside myself for the love I cannot find in the world.” Her guiding metaphor was the Japanese word komorebi, which describes not only the play of sun through leaves but also the impermanence of light and shadow, joy and loss. Pipher, author of the bestselling Reviving Ophelia, shares stories of hardship: growing up in rural Nebraska where her mother, a physician, was often absent; dealing with her father’s post-traumatic stress syndrome from the Korean Was; struggling as a single mother to finish her graduate degree. Always, though, Pipher finds the light of new meaning through honesty, wonder, and compassion for others and herself. “My story,” she writes, “is really everyone’s story.” As you read, look for chapters that resonant with you on the themes of coping, resilience, beauty, and transcendence.