Read This Book: In Shock by Rana Awdish

“If empathy is the ability to take the perspective of another and feel with them, then, at its best, the practice of medicine is a focused, scientific form of empathy.”

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For the past few days I’ve been devouring In Shock in every spare moment I could find. In her narrative, Awdish recounts the experience of severe illness and near-death on the background of being a physician herself. She shares almost “crossing over”-esque insights into how and why medicine is failing its patients, as well as its doctors.

In Shock is definitively part-memoir, succinctly conveying the many complexities of Awdish’s illness and survival. True to its intention, it avoids the traditional stiff-upper-lip clinical retelling, and allows for range of emotions experienced by the critically ill individual. It is a narrative not looking purely outwards, but also in. What Awdish distills from her experience is both poignant and pragmatic.

“Illness is viewed as an aberrant state. It is a town we drive through on a journey home, but not a place to stop and linger.”

In Shock is about medicine’s broken telephone. It is about our inherent, but often unintentional, disrespect for patients and ourselves. It is about seeking comfort in the wrong ways, and about righting our bad medical habits.

“We listen imperfectly, through a fog of ghosts and competing priorities.”

Perhaps an unexpected benefit for me, in reading this, has been clarity. I understand now the dissonance between myself and much of medicine – I think my generation of doctors exists in that grey area between the “old-school” and the “new school”. We’re trying to remain respectful of the giants that brought us here, but have also become acutely aware that the way things “have always been” is not the way things should continue.

While I think that anyone can enjoy this book, I highly recommend it to medical students and doctors. I’m definitely adding this to my growing list of books medical students should read, right up there with Postmortem and When Breath Becomes Air(If you do read it, I would love to discuss it with you.)

Right now, I am absolutely fangirling over Dr Awdish, and I wish to see more physicians like her speaking up. Far from being punitive, In Shock invokes the hope that medicine can be healed – and so, too, can we.

“In that light we can accept that our greatest gift is not in fact healing, because all healing is transient.”

… I’ll leave you to read it yourself to discover what our true greatest gift is.

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Read This Book: An Unquiet Mind

11552857I love that more healthcare workers are talking about depression these days. It’s something I did not see while I was studying, and that meant that I felt very alone. You might even have seen (or participated in) #crazysocks4docs, which was meant to highlight the high rates of depression in the medical profession. (Some took exception to the term “crazy” – but I’m not going to discuss that right now.)

Anyway, more and more HCWs are doing their part to delegitimise stigma by sharing stories of their own depression. But some mental illnesses are still “off limits” – bipolar mood disorder and schizophrenia, for example; and it’s not hard to know why. For a doctor to get sad and burnt out? Most people can wrap their heads around that. But few are comfortable with the idea of an “unstable” doctor. Society hasn’t become comfortable talking about those disorders that may lead to losing touch with reality. Continue reading “Read This Book: An Unquiet Mind”

An Africa Day Collective

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Image via Mocha Club

Today is (was) Africa Day. My favourite way of celebrating Africa is by celebrating her literature – and by implication, her narratives.

I have loads of posts about South African books, but not one about the continent. Here is a handful of my favourite pan-African books. There are many more. I am shamefully missing a bunch of countries on the continent – please do recommend some good books in countries not listed below. Preferably written by an author from the relevant country. Continue reading “An Africa Day Collective”

8th Annual End of Year Bookish Survey

I’m linking up with Jamie’s annual end of year bookish survey again this year.

I spent 11 months of this year without internet, so I’ve hardly reviewed any books, and posted about books rarely too. I also haven’t read much this year. It’s been a tough one. Jamie has a lot of questions, and I don’t have answers to them all, so I’ve actually left some of them out.

2017-book-survey Continue reading “8th Annual End of Year Bookish Survey”

South African Books To Read This Heritage Day

Because it’s Heritage Weekend, and I’m working tomorrow (the actual Heritage Day), and I haven’t posted anything bookish in a long time.

I continue to have a love affair with South African (and African continental) books. Below are some of my previous lists on the same topic. (This is not a ranked list. This is a list of more books I’ve discovered since my last list.) (Mh. I thought I had more than two of these…)

Continue reading “South African Books To Read This Heritage Day”

[Book Review] Incarceration Nations

dreisinger_incarcerationnationsI don’t know how much time the average person spends thinking about prisons. It usually crosses my mind when I have a patient who is brought from prison – which happens a lot less now that I’m working only with kids. Every once in a while there will be a report of a jail break, and in high school we had a few debate topics around prisons (This House Supports The Right To Vote For Prisoners, etc). Every year at the anniversary of my aunt’s murder I think about prison, and wonder whether her murderer is still incarcerated.

Besides that, prison doesn’t cross my mind too often, and I’d wager it’s the same for those who don’t work with inmates, or don’t have a close relative currently imprisoned.

Baz Dreisinger’s Incarceration Nations dares to coax us from this comfort in a multi-national exposé of prisons around the world, and the justice/punitive systems within which they function. Continue reading “[Book Review] Incarceration Nations”

Ten Things Books Have Made Me Want To Do

You know that saying about readers having many lives through the books they read? I love it, because there are so many things I can’t do, but would love to. Then there are some things books have inspired me to do… or at least to dream about.

I’m linking up with Top Ten Tuesdays to bring you (some of the) things book have made me want to do.

1. Go to Boarding School

A la Malory Towers by Enid Blyton, Spud by John van de Ruit, Looking for Alaska by John Green and even Harry Potter, to name but a few.

5000b1238115345bee19d12384791a68625445af06153537b90254460bebb0df Continue reading “Ten Things Books Have Made Me Want To Do”

What If Slavery Never Fell: Underground Airlines [Book Review]

I’ve been on a bit of an alternate-history kick recently, which has led me to believe that it is possibly one of the most challenging genres an author might tackle. Call it the Butterfly Effect or Domino Effect or just plain Jenga, but changing a single event in history causes a cascade of changes, and if the author misses even one of those, the book loses its believability.

23208397Underground Airlines by Ben H. Winters is an alternate reality in the present day where slavery was never outlawed in the USA, and is still practiced in four major states. It is a horrifying thought and an important topic in light of current race-relations in the USA and much of the world.

World-building is important in alternative-history fiction, but must be subtle. If the world is different to the way we know it, the reader must be able to understand why that is. Winters did this fairly well, in referring to trading sanctions which, for example, result in CDs not yet reaching American markets. Continue reading “What If Slavery Never Fell: Underground Airlines [Book Review]”

Top Ten Underrated Books

I’m linking up with The Broke and The Bookish to bring you ten of my favourite books with fewer than 2,000 ratings. All of my books on last week’s list, save for one, have fewer than 2,000 ratings on Goodreads, so I haven’t included any of those books on this list (but you should totally check them out, too!)

Note: Book titles are linked to my reviews of them, or in the absence of a review, to their Goodreads listing.

  1. The Girl Without A Sound by Buhle Ngaba

30187012Number of ratings: 4

A South African picture book “born out of defiance and as a response to the fairytales we were told as little girls. Stories about white princesses with blue eyes, flowing locks of hair and an overwhelming awareness of their beauty.” And just like Coconut and Kwezi (see last week’s list), even though I’m not the intended target market, I think it is wonderful, and I intend to purchase it for as many kids as I can.

Also, you can get the digital file for free on their website! Continue reading “Top Ten Underrated Books”