“Memorable.... Fascinating. We come away from My Own Country with an abiding admiration for the good and compassionate work Dr. Verghese has conducted.”
Anyway, in My Own Country Verghese talks a lot about how his patients were contracting HIV in the small town of eastern Tennessee in which he lived and worked. As you are likely aware, the AIDS epidemic really came to light in the United States amongst gay men. Yes, there were also many cases that resulted from intravenous drug use, blood transfusions, and in hemophiliacs receiving clotting factor concentrates, but it was risky sexual behaviors that were the hot topic. Especially because, at the time, homosexuality was rarely talked about and certainly not well-accepted by any means. As such, Vergheese found himself immersed in a sub-culture that he was completely unfamiliar with and he had so many questions. Not necessarily about the lifestyle, the culture, or anything, although those things were certainly of interest– more so about himself, his prejudices, his biases, his thoughts on innocence and guilt and what having HIV and AIDS really meant.
Yascha Mounk’s “Stranger in My Own Country: A Jewish Family in Modern Germany” (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $26) starts on an ironic note and stays there. Two decades after the end of World War II, when the latest wave of official anti-Semitism swept over Communist-ruled Poland in the 1960s, Mounk’s family sought places of refuge around the world, and his grandfather, Leon, ended up not in Israel or America, but in Germany.