Epidemics and Society by Frank M. Snowden

I picked up a copy of Epidemics and Society in November of 2019, having no idea it had just been published, nor any hint of what would happen in China only a few weeks later. I thought that, well, I was trying to write a pandemic in my current NaNoWriMo novel and maybe some research would help…

Epidemics and Society is the best book on understanding the intersection of medicine and history I’ve ever read. When I took history classes in high school and college, public health was treated like a thing separate from historical events. This book shatters that illusion and shows that many points of upheaval took place during or directly after an epidemic of some sort.

It starts early with explanations of our understanding of disease and moves through history, epidemic by epidemic, around the world. Each is explained in context of the politics, public health policies, epidemiology, and even economics that impacted the response to the pandemic.

Ultimately the lesson is simple: all this has happened before, and all this will happen again. The best we can do is make public health a critical priority both in times of low concern and times of epidemic.

Also, hug your healthcare workers (consensually) because they’ve been through a hell of a ride for centuries now.

Amazons, Abolitionists, and Activists: A Graphic History of Women’s Fight for their Rights

If you’re looking for a graphic history (aka “comic book style”) book that explains the fight for women’s rights, Amazons, Abolitionists, and Activists by Mikki Kendall and illustrated by A D’Amico, is the book.

The plot entails a class of young women, who disagree with what the women’s movement is, receiving a tour through history from a purple artificial intelligence.

They cover historical figures from multiple countries, as well as an outline of different systems of rights in different places and times.

They cover suffrage, equal rights, and how women’s rights movements intersect with minority rights, the labor movement, white supremacy, child labor laws, eugenics, misogyny, the civil rights movement, LGTBQIA rights movements, and many other important points in history.

I think Fredrick Douglass might be the only man mentioned by name.

They also cover historical activist figures you may not hear about elsewhere — especially Black, Native American, and Indian folks. I learned more names in this book than I did in 12 years of education. (Admittedly, that education was in the 80s and 90s. Hopefully we’ve come a ways since.)

Because it’s a survey more than a textbook, most of what you get is a name and maybe two paragraphs about a person or an event. It’s enough to pique interest and send the reader back to the library. (It’s also probably a good “pick one person from the book to do a report on” resource for teachers.)

I see this book making a place for itself on bookshelves for historians young and old, women who want to know they’re not fighting alone, and the home of anyone who wants to better understand how women fit into the history of the human race.