Summer Reading: “On Immunity”

I just finished reading On Immunity: An Innoculation by Eula Biss. I first heard about the book in an interview on RadioWest.

Eula Biss is a mother and award-winning essayist. The idea for this book was sparked by her anxieties about the question of vaccinating (or not vaccinating) her son. Though she ended up deciding to vaccinate her son on schedule, the book is not an argument for or against vaccination, rather it is an exploration of our anxieties about vaccination, its risks and benefits and history.

Opinions about vaccination and how people arrive at their respective decisions is really interesting to me and so this book was particularly insightful; however, the book is also just a fascinating read regardless of your interest level when it comes to vaccination. Biss weaves together her own experiences and feelings, research in the field of immunology, history, and myth to explore the question of immunity.

“What has been done to us seems to be, among other things, that we have been made fearful. What will we do with our fear? This strikes me as a central question of both citizenship and motherhood. As mothers, we must somehow square our power with our powerlessness. We can protect our children to some extent. But we cannot make them invulnerable any more than we can make ourselves invulnerable. ‘Life,” as Donna Haraway writes, ‘is a window of vilnerability.'”

On Immunity, p. 152

What are you reading this summer?

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