Each month, NACCHO will bring you a new public health book, read and reviewed by NACCHO staff. We hope to provide a well-rounded reading list that you will find enjoyable as well as informative.
There are a couple of firsts in this recommendation-I am recommending two books instead of just one, and these fall closer into the literature/fiction category than other recommendations I’ve written before. However, while I wavered for a moment on whether or not I should stray from my standard, more academically-focused recommendations, I ultimately decided to share my thoughts on these books, given their relevance to challenges today.
These books tell the story of two generations of women, one Hawaiian, one Hawaiian and Japanese. The initial book shares the story of an 11-year-old girl, who upon learning she had leprosy, was essentially banished to the island of Moloka’i, a standard practice in Hawaii during the late 1800s to the mid-20th century. It shares her life and the struggles she experienced during this time. The second follows her daughter, born to parents with leprosy and given up for adoption, as was the law at that time.
Daughter of Moloka’i covers the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor in World War II, and brings to light the atrocious treatment of Asians and Asian-Americans during this period. This is important perspective to understand, and while this book is fiction, the experiences of the characters are similar to those who experienced this in real life. Given the increasing racism towards Asians, books like these are important to understand the long history of racism and segregation experienced by Asians in the United States.
These are beautifully written stories that captivated me, made me realize the challenges that brutal public health measures inflicted on people, and helped me to better understand the treatment of Asians in the United States. I hope you enjoy them!