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My Own Country: A Doctor's Story Paperback – April 25, 1995

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Indian physician Verghese recalls his experience practicing in the remote, conservative town of Johnson City, Tenn., when HIV first emerged there in 1985.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

In fall 1985 Verghese--who was born in Ethiopia of Indian parents--returned with his wife and newborn son to Johnson City, Tennessee, where he had done his internship and residence. As he watched AIDS infect the small town, he and the community learned many things from one another, including the power of compassion. An AIDS expert who initially had no patients, Verghese describes meeting gay men and then eventually others struggling with this new disease. Verghese's patients include a factory worker confronting her husband's AIDS, bisexuality, and her own HIV status and a religious couple infected via a blood transfusion attempting to keep their disease secret from their church and their children. This novelistic account, occasionally overly detailed, provides a heartfelt perspective on the American response to the spread of AIDS. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 1/94.
- James E. Van Buskirk, San Francisco P . L .
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (April 25, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679752927
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679752929
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 1.2 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (231 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #11,901 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

ABRAHAM VERGHESE is senior associate chair and professor for the Theory and Practice of Medicine, Stanford University School of Medicine. He sees patients, teaches students and writes.

From 1990 to 1991, Abraham Verghese attended the Iowa Writers' Workshop at The University of Iowa, where he obtained a Master of Fine Arts degree.

His first book, MY OWN COUNTRY, about AIDS in rural Tennessee, was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for 1994 and was made into a movie directed by Mira Nair and starring Naveen Andrews, Marisa Tomei, Glenne Headley and others.

His second book, THE TENNIS PARTNER, was a New York Times notable book and a national bestseller.

CUTTING FOR STONE is his most recent book and his first novel. It is an epic love story, medical story and family saga. It appeared in hardback in 2009, and is in its 9th printing and is being translated into 16 languages. It is a Vintage paperback and has remained on the New York Times bestseller list for over 110 weeks at this writing.

Verghese has an honorary Doctor of Science degree from Swarthmore College and has published extensively in the medical literature, and his writing has appeared in The New Yorker, Sports Illustrated, The Atlantic Monthly, Esquire, Granta, The New York Times Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, and elsewhere.

His writing, both non-fiction and fiction, has to do with his view of medicine as a passionate and romantic pursuit; he sees the bedside ritual of examining the patient as a critical, cost saving, time-honored and necessary, (but greatly threatened) skill that cements the patient-physician relationship. He coined the term the 'iPatient' to describe the phenomenon of the virtual patient in the computer becoming the object of attention to the detriment of the real patient in the bed.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

198 of 199 people found the following review helpful By Mari Lu Robbins ( on August 28, 1999
Format: Paperback
With the eye, ear and voice of a novelist and with the compassion of a healer, Dr. Abraham Verghese has taken his experiences as "the AIDS doctor" of east Tennessee and turned them into an incredible memoir. This is one of the most touching and engrossing books I've read in years.
When Verghese landed in Johnson City, Tennessee in 1985, he came as a newly-accredited infectious diseases specialist to treat veterans, most of whom had lung cancer and emphysema, and to spend one day a week in the town medical center he learned to call the "Miracle Center". When the center's first AIDS patient entered the hospital, it was the beginning of the plague which would soon extend across the country, not just in the big city locales where the majority of homosexual men and drug abusers lived. They were coming home to die.
Because the young doctor had a strong desire to help and an ability to tolerate the differences of others, he gradually found himself almost obsessed with caring for his patients. He loved them as people, and as they began to die, he mourned. They were on his mind constantly, even when he was home with his beautiful wife and small sons to the point where his marriage and the center of his home became endangered by his devotion to a setting and to people which excluded them.
This book is so beautifully written I could not put it down. Each patient became fully alive for me, thanks to Verghese's ability to describe them, and I, too, mourned them as they passed. This is a memoir I will not soon forget. Poignant in its humanity, staggering in the scope of its tragedy, it will remain Verghese's monument to Tennessee and the people he came to love in all their variety.
Wonderful book.
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119 of 119 people found the following review helpful By K. Brock on January 25, 1999
Format: Paperback
As a physician who was just finishing training when AIDS burst on the scene in the 80's, the panic and fear among medical staff described in this book are actually tame to what I saw in my hospital. I am one of those "who would, " as Dr. Verghese categorized those who would or would not care for HIV infected patients, and this truly separated us from the vast majority of those at that time who let their fear rule over their intellect. Dr. Verghese tells this exciting story with great compassion for his patients and their families, and it is clear that his emotional connection to them, which is stongly discouraged in medical training, came at great personal cost. As someone who now lives and practices in East Tennessee, I feel he accurately described the people, the culture, and the region's great beauty. His yearning to fit in--to have a home--is poignantly obvious throughout the book even as he becomes more and more isolated from his family and his collegues. Several of my collegues trained under or worked with Dr. Verghese during this time, and they all attest to his brilliance as a diagnostician, his great empathy for his patients, his nonjudgemental approach to the gay lifestyle, and his decency and approachability as a person. This book, in their opinions, is an accurate portrayal of the AIDS story in the rural setting. I am drawn to medical writing, particularly when written by physicians themselves, and Dr. Verghese is a master. This book moved me to tears as the deaths of all of these patients began to add up toward the end of the book, and one can't help but to feel the great waste of life that this virus causes. As a hospice medical director, I was also touched by Dr.Read more ›
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58 of 58 people found the following review helpful By Stephanie Manley VINE VOICE on July 6, 2001
Format: Paperback
This book is absolutely stunning. Verghese's writing style is so unusual as he writes with humor, compassion, and keeps you fully informed as a outsider to his patients treatment, and their disease. During the begining stages of our dealings with the AIDS virus we were so quick to judge the population that received AIDS rather than treating it as a disease that impacts not only the patient but their family. Verghese is able to reflect a wholistic picture of the patient, and their family. He was a person that was interested in the patient, the disease, and learning about the gay culture. He did so in way that was free of prejudice, and it was a true learning experience. I highly recommend this book for those that wish to read a good book as well as those that are interested in the early days of the AIDS epidemic.
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36 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Nancy K. Oconnor on October 1, 2004
Format: Paperback
As a doctor, I rarely enjoy books about physicians because they simply don't show the reality of our lives.

Unlike the soap opera sexuality and black humor (and ridicule) in many medical best sellers, Dr. Verghese writes a the simple tale of a doctor and his patients, told with quiet compassion and an eye for the small details of human experience.

He tells of the daily fight to keep people alive. And he tells the story of how ordinary Americans confront this new disease with courage.

Too often, Southern Americans are portrayed as bigoted religious homophobes by the literati. His stories of how the close knit families confront and accept their dying sons and husbands.

And he tells of the common --but rarely discussed-- story of immigrants. This a story I see in my own family, where one person comes, and then is joined by friends and family, and soon a thriving immigrant community invigorates the small towns of middle America.

Finally, he shows the strains of practicing medicine in the context of a daily life.

Most of the reviews paint this as a book about HIV, and it is.

But it is a book about families, about culture, and especially about the life of ordinary physicians who daily confront the struggle against sickness and mortality.

I would recommend it to anyone thinking of joining the medical profession.
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