Thursday, April 30, 2015

On Immunity: An Inoculation by Eula Biss

A Mini-Review

On Immunity: An Inoculation
by Eula Biss
narrated by Tamara Marston
HighBridge Audio, 2014
6 hours and 23 minutes
source: purchased

"Immunity is a shared space - a garden we tend together."

Publisher's Summary:
In this bold, fascinating book, Biss investigates the metaphors and myths surrounding our conception of immunity and its implications for the individual and the social body. As she hears more and more fears about vaccines, Biss researches what they mean for her own child, her immediate community, America, and the world, both historically and in the present moment. She extends a conversation with other mothers to meditations on Voltaire's Candide, Bram Stoker's Dracula, Rachel Carson's Silent Spring, Susan Sontag's AIDS and Its Metaphors, and beyond. On Immunity is a moving account of how we are all interconnected - our bodies and our fates.

My thoughts:
Biss offers a concise overview on the topic of immunization. I particularly appreciated her inclusion of the history/evolution of public health. However, this book is probably not meant for a reader with my background. As a pharmacist and mother of three, I found it interesting, but was hoping for more hard information and science. Still, I enjoyed the author's voice and approach.

Most people already have strong views on the subject and I doubt this book will change any minds. Yet, we truly are each others environment.

My rating:


  1. I wanted more of the science and history as well--I was fascinated about the self-inoculations in the late 1700s and would have loved to know more about how this evolved over time. Though as you mention, it was likely the scope and audience that kept these parts brief. I thought the narration was excellent.

    1. Trish - There are so many aspects to immunization, it would have been impossible for Biss to cover everything in as much depth as I would have liked. Guess she had to draw the line somewhere.

      And I really should have mentioned the narration, even in a mini-review... Marston did a great job!

  2. When Vance was young everyone immunized - at least as far as I knew. Since it doesn't really relate to me, I'm staying out of this debate and probably won't read the book.

    1. Kathy - Everyone immunized when the girls were babies, too. The pharmacist in me was curious to know what Biss had to say, but she didn't say quite enough.

  3. This does sound pretty fascinating and I may enjoy it. But I am sure I would like to have more details too. I'll probably check it out on audio and give it a try.

    1. Athira - I think this book is a good starting point for someone just approaching the topic, but if (like me) you've already lived through it and have a background in science, there is not much new.

  4. Disappointing - I'm not a scientist but one of the reasons I read books like this is to learn more about science.


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