One of our recommended books is THE KISSING BUG by DAISY HERNÁNDEZ

THE KISSING BUG

A True Story of a Family, an Insect, and a Nation's Neglect of a Deadly Disease


Who does the United States take care of, and who does it leave behind? A necessary investigation of infectious disease, poverty, racism, and for-profit healthcare—and the harm caused by decades of neglect.

Growing up in a New Jersey factory town in the 1980s, Daisy Hernández believed that her aunt had become deathly ill from eating an apple. No one in her family, in either the United States or Colombia, spoke of infectious diseases. Even into her thirties, she only knew that her aunt had died of Chagas, a rare and devastating illness that affects the heart and digestive system.

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Who does the United States take care of, and who does it leave behind? A necessary investigation of infectious disease, poverty, racism, and for-profit healthcare—and the harm caused by decades of neglect.

Growing up in a New Jersey factory town in the 1980s, Daisy Hernández believed that her aunt had become deathly ill from eating an apple. No one in her family, in either the United States or Colombia, spoke of infectious diseases. Even into her thirties, she only knew that her aunt had died of Chagas, a rare and devastating illness that affects the heart and digestive system. But as Hernández dug deeper, she discovered that Chagas—or the kissing bug disease—is more prevalent in the United States than the Zika virus.

After her aunt’s death, Hernández began searching for answers. Crisscrossing the country, she interviewed patients, doctors, epidemiologists, and even veterinarians with the Department of Defense. She learned that in the United States more than three hundred thousand people in the Latinx community have Chagas, and that outside of Latin America, this is the only country with the native insects—the “kissing bugs”—that carry the Chagas parasite.

Through unsparing, gripping, and humane portraits, Hernández chronicles a story vast in scope and urgent in its implications, exposing how poverty, racism, and public policies have conspired to keep this disease hidden. A riveting and nuanced investigation into racial politics and for-profit healthcare in the United States, The Kissing Bug reveals the intimate history of a marginalized disease and connects us to the lives at the center of it all.

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  • TinHouse
  • Hardcover
  • June 2021
  • 336 Pages
  • 978-1-951142-52-0

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$27.95

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About Daisy Hernández

DAISY HERNÁNDEZ is the author of THE KISSING BUGDaisy Hernández is a former reporter for The New York Times and has been writing about the intersections of race, immigration, class, and sexuality for almost two decades. She has written for National Geographic, NPR’s All Things Considered and Code SwitchThe Atlantic, Slate, and Guernica, and she’s the former editor of Colorlines, a newsmagazine on race and politics. Hernández is the author of the award-winning memoir A Cup of Water Under My Bed and co-editor of Colonize This! Young Women of Color on Today’s Feminism. She is an associate professor at Miami University in Ohio.

Author Website

Praise

“An absolutely essential perspective on global migration, poverty, and pandemics.” —Amy Stewart, author of Wicked Bugs

“Lyrical, unflinching. . . . Hernández expertly skates the line between memoir and science tome, showing the personal effects of a disease perpetuated by a cascade of systemic failures.”The Washington Post

“A necessary read for anyone concerned about health crises across the world.”The Boston Globe

“Part memoir, part investigative thriller. . . . Her book shines a light on [a] neglected harm.”The San Francisco Chronicle

“A common but overlooked parasite killed the author’s aunt, spurring this exposé.”The New York Times Book Review, New & Noteworthy

“Visceral. . . . [Hernández] weaves storytelling, science and policy with striking results.”Newsweek

Discussion Questions

1. Had you heard of Chagas disease before reading this book? Were there things you learned about that surprised you?

2. Danielle Ofri calls The Kissing Bug “a deft mix of family archaeology, parasite detective story, and American reckoning.” In a few words, how would you characterize the book?

3. How was the book structured? How did this affect the story and your appreciation of the book?

4. Author Daisy Hernández begins the narrative in childhood, with a scene of her aunt in the hospital. Why do you think she chose to start in this way?

5. “While other girls my age were taught to fear rabid dogs and horrible men,” says Hernández, “I learned to be terrified of an insect the size of my fingernail, an insect that could kill a woman’s heart. And as with all private mythologies, this one began before my mother was born.” Growing up, was there anything that your family’s particular history taught you to fear?

6. Says Hernández: “The corazón, the heart, is an accordion. . . . The kissing bug disease tampers with this music.” How does she use metaphor and other techniques here and elsewhere to help explain complicated medical and scientific concepts? Why might she, at times, be writing in this way, rather than using more technical terminology?

7. Of all the patients Hernández interviews in the book, was there one you connected with most? Why do you think it was important to Hernández to include so many individual stories?

8. Angie Cruz says that “The question The Kissing Bug investigates is timely: Who does the United States take care of, and who does it leave behind?” After reading the book, how would you answer this question?

9. In your opinion, could more be done to educate the American public about Chagas disease? What kinds of steps might be taken?

10. If you could recommend this book to anyone in the world, who would you share it with? Who do you think most needs to read these pages?