Book Review: Gay in the 80s

twitterlogoBRReview by Katelyn Smith

In order to fully appreciate Colin Clews’ book Gay in the 80s: From Fighting for Our Rights to Fighting for Our Lives (2016), it seems necessary to supplement the text with his extensive blog of the same name. Clews began his blog in March 2012 and has continued through 2017, writing short summaries of important events in gay history during the 1980s. He claims the 80s are a particularly important decade to educate others about because there was a “major shift towards the emergence of a global gay culture.” Clews further reveals on his blog a major motivation behind his writing: “Maybe it’s a sign of my advancing years but I’m increasingly coming to appreciate the value of knowing our history.” Although written for a general audience, Clews’ book is aimed toward those a part of the LGBT community. Rather than writing his blog chronologically, he instead chooses various topics from the decade, often writing about events on the anniversary of important milestones for gay rights. Gay in the 80s is a culmination and addition to Clews’ blog, which is currently featured on the website. A PDF version is available for purchase on Clews’ website, with a hard copy currently available only in the U.K.  

34208949Clews’ book is broken into five chapters of varying length: Increased Visibility, The Growth of Queer Communities, Mainstream Politics, Under Attack, and HIV/AIDS. Clews claims there is “no scientific rationale” for these groupings and they are entirely based on his opinion, which is both a strength and weakness to the work. The 1980s was a time of personal transformation for Clews, who describes this as a “pivotal decade” for both himself and gay activists. Beginning the decade as a “necessarily closeted” residential childcare worker in Leicester, England, he ended the decade as an active advocate for gay rights, arguing for HIV/AIDS care in Sydney, Australia. Clews uses personal testimony to supplement the wider history of changing attitude toward homosexuality, seen in the media, governments, and activist efforts. Continue reading “Book Review: Gay in the 80s”

Book Review: Hot Milk

twitterlogoBRReview by Sarah E. Parker.

I have more of an ear for the language of symptoms and side effects, because that is my mother’s language. Perhaps it is my mother tongue. (135)

Neither a god nor my father is the major plot in my own life. I am anti the major plots. (143).

Deborah Levy’s Hot Milk (Bloomsbury, 2016), shortlisted for the 2016 Man Booker Prize, is a deliciously sensual novel that reads more like a sustained poem than a typical narrative. The protagonist is Sofia Papastergiadis, a 25-year-old woman who has abandoned her PhD in anthropology to take care of her ailing mother, Rose.

[Editor’s note: the following paragraph contains spoilers for plot elements. Some readers may wish to skip to the third paragraph and read to the end.] Continue reading “Book Review: Hot Milk”

Book Review: Self-Medication and Society

twitterlogoBRReview by David Kilgannon.

That familiar ache in your lower back makes you reach for the ibuprofen, while the watery eyes of allergies compels you to keep antihistamines nearby. In these small and normal (even boring) everyday actions an individual is actually engaging in the complex practice of self-medication. It has become part of our daily lives, as the influence of the pharmacy has played an increasing role in public health across the twentieth, and into the twenty-first, century. Yet, as Sylvie Fainzang demonstrates in her new book, Self-Medication and Society: Mirages of Autonomy (Routledge, 2016), an analysis of the underlying dynamics that shape the self-medication process is long overdue.

30557248Fainzang is a French medical anthropologist, who has demonstrated a long-standing interest in the involvement of non-medical actors within the medical sphere, having previously published books on the medical practices of the Bissa people of Burkina Faso (L’intérieur des choses: maladie, divination et reproduction sociale chez les Bisa du Burkina, 1986), the role of medicines in wider society (Médicaments et société. Le patient, le médecin et l’ordonnance, 2001) as well as popular efforts against alcoholism (Curar-se do álcool: antropologia de uma luta contra o alcoolismo, 2007). These studies have demonstrated the influence of groups of patients operating on the fringe of medical orthodoxy. In Self-Medication and Society, Fainzang examines a more nebulous grouping of such patients: those who have eschewed ‘traditional’ approaches towards disease in favor of a personalized treatment carried out without medical supervision. Continue reading “Book Review: Self-Medication and Society”

#SmallActs Toward Climate Justice

During this week leading up to the March for Science in Washington D.C.  we at MedHum | Daily Dose want to reaffirm the importance of rigorous, ongoing scientific research that informs and is informed by social justice action locally, nationally, and globally. In the past year, environmental catastrophes within the United States, such as the Flint water crisis and Dakota Access Pipeline, have highlighted the need for a movement toward environmental sustainability that centers the experiences and leadership of historically and currently marginalized populations who are often most vulnerable to the effects of pollution and climate change.

Below are a few links for those interested in further reading and opportunities for action. We encourage you to take five minutes, fifteen minutes, an hour, half a day — whatever you can spare — to learn something new about the ongoing struggle, and contribute where you can.

Learn about the work of the Indigenous Environmental Network and consider making a donation to support their ongoing efforts. In November 2016, WNYC’s On the Media spoke with IEN organizer Kandi Mossett about the Dakota Access Pipeline protest, and the episode is very much worth listening to.

We encourage you to read and sign the Indigenous Science March for Science Letter of Support, whether as a member of an indigenous community or as an ally.

The NAACP has an Environmental & Climate Justice program that you can learn about and contribute to here.

Learn about the role investigative journalism played in bringing national attention to the Flint, Michigan water crisis. Then read the Michigan Civil Rights Commission report on the water crisis as a manifestation of systemic racism.

If you are interested in joining a public protest over the next two weeks, but are not in the Washington, D.C. area, check out the March for Science (April 22) and People’s Climate March (April 29) websites for local opportunities to make your support for climate justice visible in the streets.

And finally, consider setting up an automatic monthly donation, if it is in your budget, to a climate justice organization — in addition to IEN and NAACP there is and the Union of Concerned Scientists both of which are working toward an equitable, sustainable future.

If you have other suggestions for where MedHum readers might learn more or contribute their time, money, or expertise, please share links below.