The unknown story of the only leprosy colony in the continental United States, and the thousands of Americans who were exiled--hidden away with their "shameful" disease. Weaving together a wealth of archival material with original interviews, Fessler has created an account of a lost American history.
It is a story that sounds all too familiar to audiences in 2020: physicians, public health scientists, and politicians know that an infectious disease has reached the United States but cannot decide whether the best course is to alarm the public or play down the threat of illness ... Ms. Fessler’s meticulously researched account illuminates the endless ways, large and small, in which those confined to Carville sought to determine the shape of their own lives ... Ms. Fessler’s final chapter is pointedly called 'Lessons Not Learned.' She argues that 'the stigma of leprosy lives on,' ... Though the two diseases could hardly be more different, one hopes that the larger lesson of Hansen’s disease—that scientific reasoning and compassion for the sick are better foundations for public policy than fear and neglect—reaches our debates about Covid-19 from the not-so-distant past.
NPR correspondent Fessler chronicles the 'well-meaning but misguided effort to protect public health' at the Louisiana Leper Home (later called Carville) that opened in 1894 ... Fessler presents inspiring and tragic stories of patients who mostly experienced Carville as a prison, sometimes a sanctuary. She also portrays activists and the devoted Catholic nun nurses who cared for the incarcerated population, one of whom, Sister Catherine Sullivan, shared her feeling about the leprosarium, 'Mercy is no substitute for justice.' Heartbreaking and infuriating.
NPR correspondent Fessler’s polished and compassionate debut examines the history of Hansen’s disease (the modern name for leprosy) in America through the story of the Louisiana Leper Home in Carville, La ... Her well-researched and articulate account humanizes sufferers and caregivers alike, and offers hope in the medical field’s ability to halt the spread of contagious illness. Readers will be enlightened and encouraged.