In the Kingdom of the Sick: A Social History of Chronic Illness in America (Hardcover)

A Social History of Chronic Illness in America

By Laurie Edwards

Walker & Company, 9780802718013, 243pp.

Publication Date: April 9, 2013



Thirty years ago, Susan Sontag wrote, "Everyone who is born holds dual citizenship in the kingdom of the well and the kingdom of the sick ... Sooner or later each of us is obliged, at least for a spell, to identify ourselves as citizens of that other place." Now more than 133 million Americans live with chronic illness, accounting for nearly three-quarters of all health care dollars, and untold pain and disability.

There has been an alarming rise in illnesses that defy diagnosis through clinical tests or have no known cure. Millions of people, especially women, with illnesses such as irritable bowel syndrome, chronic pain, and chronic fatigue syndrome face skepticism from physicians and the public alike. And people with diseases as varied as cardiovascular disease, HIV, certain cancers, and type 2 diabetes have been accused of causing their preventable illnesses through their lifestyle choices.

We must balance our faith in medical technology with awareness of the limits of science, and confront our throwback beliefs that people who are sick have weaker character than those who are well. Through research and patient narratives, health writer Laurie Edwards explores patient rights, the role of social media in medical advocacy, the origins of our attitudes about chronic illness, and much more. What "The Noonday Demon" did for people suffering from depression, "In the Kingdom of the Sick" does for those who are chronically ill.

About the Author

Laurie Edwards has an M.F.A. and teaches health and science writing at Northeastern University. She has had several chronic illnesses since childhood. Her blog receives several thousand monthly visitors and is linked to more than 180 medical blogs. Edwards is author of Life Disrupted: Getting Real About Chronic Illness in Your Twenties and Thirties, named one of 2008s Best Consumer Health Books by Library Journal. She lives outside Boston, Massachusetts.

Praise For In the Kingdom of the Sick: A Social History of Chronic Illness in America

"Laurie Ediwards, a science writer who suffers from  chronic illness, seeks to bridge a communication gap - between society and the chronically ill. In the Kingdom of the Sick offers an informative primer on chronic illness." -- Amy Finnerty, Wall Street Journal "A timely call to attention to a global health problem." -- Kirkus Reviews "Carefully researched, well written, and accessible." -- Library Journal "An indispensable book for anyone with or concerned about chronic disease, and everyone interested in the health professions." -- Booklist (starred review)  "This is a fascinating overview of the myths, stigmas, events, and cultural attitudes that have shaped people's perception of illness and disease throughout history. By sharing the personal accounts of individiuals who have suffered from ignorance, misdiagnosis and skepticism, In the Kingdom of the Sick shines a bold light on chronic illness." -- Phyllis Greenberger, MSW, President and CEO of the Society for Women's Health Research "Laurie Edwards draws on the historical and scientific literatures, the reflections of patients and patient leaders and her own life as a person living with multiple chronic conditions to tell a compelling story. In the Kingdom of the Sick is surprising, revealing, and beautifully written."-- Jessie Gruman, President of the Center for Advancing Health "A probing, clear-thinking examination of the new medical crisis on our hands: chronic illness. Edwards brilliantly illustrates why our cultural assumptions and medical systems must change if we are to remove the parentheses that chronic illness places around so many American lives." -- Donna Jackson Nakazawa, author of The Autoimmune Epidemic and The Last Best Cure "Very original, enlightening and informed analysis of chronic illnesses, experienced by a growing number of people. Edwards goes beyond explaining illness as metaphor and acknowledges the biological realities of having illnesses most poeple don't understand - such as chronic pain and fatigue - which are too often subject to stigma." -- Paula Kamen, author of All in My Head: An Epic Quest to Cure an Unrelenting, Totally Unreasonable, and Only Slightly Enlightening Headache

“With chronic ailments the new norm, people are fighting for their right to be ill, argues this wan exploration of evolving attitudes toward sickness. Edwards (Life Disrupted) surveys the battle of patients with intractable diseases against disparagement and misunderstanding, including AIDS patients deemed morally unworthy, diabetics blamed for unhealthy lifestyles, and breast cancer survivors who are lionized but also expected to remain cheerful and feisty.”—Publishers Weekly