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In the Kingdom of the Sick: A Social History of Chronic Illness in America Hardcover – April 9, 2013
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“Laurie Ediwards, a science writer who suffers from chronic illness, seeks to bridge a communication gap - between society and the chronically ill. In the Kingdom of the Sick offers an informative primer on chronic illness.” ―Amy Finnerty, Wall Street Journal
“A timely call to attention to a global health problem.” ―Kirkus Reviews
“Carefully researched, well written, and accessible.” ―Library Journal
“An indispensable book for anyone with or concerned about chronic disease, and everyone interested in the health professions.” ―Booklist (starred review)
“This is a fascinating overview of the myths, stigmas, events, and cultural attitudes that have shaped people's perception of illness and disease throughout history. By sharing the personal accounts of individiuals who have suffered from ignorance, misdiagnosis and skepticism, In the Kingdom of the Sick shines a bold light on chronic illness.” ―Phyllis Greenberger, MSW, President and CEO of the Society for Women's Health Research
“Laurie Edwards draws on the historical and scientific literatures, the reflections of patients and patient leaders and her own life as a person living with multiple chronic conditions to tell a compelling story. In the Kingdom of the Sick is surprising, revealing, and beautifully written.” ―Jessie Gruman, President of the Center for Advancing Health
“A probing, clear-thinking examination of the new medical crisis on our hands: chronic illness. Edwards brilliantly illustrates why our cultural assumptions and medical systems must change if we are to remove the parentheses that chronic illness places around so many American lives.” ―Donna Jackson Nakazawa, author of The Autoimmune Epidemic and The Last Best Cure
“Very original, enlightening and informed analysis of chronic illnesses, experienced by a growing number of people. Edwards goes beyond explaining illness as metaphor and acknowledges the biological realities of having illnesses most poeple don't understand - such as chronic pain and fatigue - which are too often subject to stigma.” ―Paula Kamen, author of All in My Head: An Epic Quest to Cure an Unrelenting, Totally Unreasonable, and Only Slightly Enlightening Headache
“With chronic ailments the new norm, people are fighting for their right to be ill, argues this wan exploration of evolving attitudes toward sickness. Edwards (Life Disrupted) surveys the battle of patients with intractable diseases against disparagement and misunderstanding, including AIDS patients deemed morally unworthy, diabetics blamed for unhealthy lifestyles, and breast cancer survivors who are lionized but also expected to remain cheerful and feisty.” ―Publishers Weekly
Top Customer Reviews
In the Kingdom of the Sick by Laurie Edwards is an eye opening look at society's view of chronically ill persons living in the u.s. It gives a cultural context to the struggles people with "invisible" illnesses have had to face in this country. I, particular, liked the point Edwards makes that the lack of visible "defects" makes it hard for society at large to emphasize or understand the gravity of illness such as autoimmune conditions.
As a person suffering from a rare condition, the person stories illustrating how society's laws and attitudes have shifted over the decades was the most effective element in the book. When you have a name and a story to go with an issue, it makes it easier to identify with and understand.
I think Edwards does a fantastic job at pointing out how the blame game has been used to blame people with chronic illnesses for their problems, as well. Often it's believed that conditions, especially those which require special dietary consideration, are easily controlled or preventable by the afflicted. Edwards dispels this myth, giving all those with diabetes, AIDS, etc. legitimacy again in society.
Make no mistake thought, In The Kingdom of the Sick is a book for everyone. As she so eloquently illustrates and points out in the title of her book, sooner or later everyone will be a part of the kingdom of the sick. This book will just help one navigate it better, with an attitude of can do and not can't so chronic illness will not define you.
As in her first book, Life Disrupted!, Laurie interspersed In the Kingdom of the Sick with stories from real people living with chronic illness or treating it, which helps keep the book more accessible to the average reader. I also really appreciate the way she shares bits of her own experiences as a person who has lived In The Kingdom of the Sick for her entire life.
My full review can be read here: [...]
Full Disclosure: I received an advance copy of the book as an interviewee. I received no compensation, either for sharing my story/opinions with Laurie or for doing this book review. My opinions are my own, although I think anyone with any sense at all would agree with me that this is an excellent book. :-)
Laurie Edwards is not a doctor or a scientist, so there should be no expectations along the lines of solutions. She does a fine job of chronicling the miasma of chronic disease through history. But she also misses the greater picture: 1) Chronic disease has been increasing exponentially since the 1950s in western society, and 2) Those with one chronic disease are extremely likely to develop others (co-morbidity). But the book is too heavily focused on the doctor/patient relationship to notice.
The frustration comes from doctors being unable and then unwilling to understand chronic disease, like Edwards'. She says they withhold information and minimize the symptoms. They get their patients to do the same, creating a downward spiral of miscommunication. Sooner or later they tell the patient it's all in her head - it's stress, anxiety, fear - instability in her brain, not her body. The result is the patient gets nowhere, but becomes self doubting - and stressed.
At the root of the problem is the medical framework itself. Doctors are rigorously trained to treat an organ. Everything they know is focused on tracking down the culprit organ and treating it. But what if there are multiple organs involved? What if a matrix of organs are the victims and not the problems? At that point, docs are at a loss. And that's precisely where chronic disease patients find themselves.Read more ›
Author Laurie Edwards, who has been chronically ill most of her life, is intimately acquainted with being a citizen of "that other place." She uses Sontag's famous quote as a jumping off point for her new book, "In the Kingdom of the Sick: A social history of chronic illness in America."
Although the author's personal experiences (with celiac disease and a genetic lung disorder) are interwoven throughout, the book mostly takes a "big picture" look at how chronic illness is viewed in our society. More than 130 million Americans now live with such conditions as HIV, various cancers, diabetes, autoimmune disorders, chronic fatigue, asthma, and Lyme disease. Most of the healthcare dollars spent in the US go for the treatment of chronic illness. Yet many of the chronically ill are viewed with mistrust by doctors and the public at large. Either their largely invisible symptoms are disbelieved entirely (such as with CFS or Lyme) or they are blamed as being the cause of their own illness due to perceived lifestyle choices (HIV and type-2 diabetes).
"In the Kingdom of the Sick" examines the rise of the disability rights movement, AIDS activism, the women's health movement (with its emphasis on breast cancer awareness), gender bias in the treatment of pain, and patient activism in the digital age. The book reports on academic research as well as the stories of individual patients from across the spectrum of chronic illness.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Overall this is a solid book, outlining the history of chronic illness in the United States, both from a medical perspective and, largely, from a patient perspective. Read morePublished 3 days ago by S. Yates
Excellent history of how we got here in health care. As an RN I found the social, political, advocacy history of health care fascinating. Read morePublished 12 months ago by Teresa Edwards
Chronic illness is not just an objectively verifiable physiological deficiency. Our experience and understanding of it is always mediated by the norms and values of our time. Read morePublished 19 months ago by Philippe Vandenbroeck
Earlier this month I read Laurie Edward’s stunning book - In the Kingdom of The Sick: A Social History of Chronic Illness in America. Read morePublished on May 18, 2014 by Dan Dunlop, Healthcare Marketer
I have been a nurse for 44 years now and I really enjoyed reading this book, Looking back at my career through the lense of social actions is an alternate way of looking at... Read morePublished on February 21, 2014 by Amazon Customer
The book's subtitle is, "A Social History of Chronic Illness in America." How well does the book deliver on this topic? In my opinion, not very well. Read morePublished on July 23, 2013 by XY
When something is titled " A Social History" I expect it to be interesting and relatively light. This book is neither. Read morePublished on July 9, 2013 by Susanne C.
What a phenomenal education I got about, as the subtitle states, the social history of chronic illness in America when I read Laurie Edwards', In the Kingdom of the Sick. Read morePublished on May 21, 2013 by Cup Of Joe