On my Bedside Table

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Colony

by John Tayman

This is an amazing microhistory of the leper colony at Molokai covering the people, places and public health policy over a two hundred-year span. Father Damien is featured, of course, but Mother Marianne Cope and Joseph Dutton are there as well -- I'd never heard about them before, but they were just as impressive. From the beginning of the colony, when exiles were rowed to shore (or, indeed, heaved overboard near shore) to find no shelter, food, or medical attention waiting for them; to its development into a small, tight-knit community; to the stories of the last remaining colonists who only wanted to live out their remaining days in the place that had become their home -- the story of Molokai is by turns harrowing and moving. And lest you think we've come a long way -- I couldn't believe the note about the CA microbiologist that in the early days of AIDS recommended reviving Molokai as an AIDS colony..
This is a well-documented and researched history, compassionately written.


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