Friday, March 01, 2013

[Book Review] FEVER SEASON by Jeanette Keith

Nonfiction/Memphis History

Steve reviews FEVER SEASON: THE STORY OF A TERRIFYING EPIDEMIC AND THE PEOPLE WHO SAVED A CITY by Jeanette Keith  (Bloomsbury Press, 2012). 

In 1878, a yellow fever epidemic struck the city of Memphis, killing as many as 5,000 residents and driving many more into hiding. Fever Season: The story of a terrifying epidemic and the people who saved a city is a dark narrative of this epidemic, written from primary source material about the experiences of contemporary Memphians.

Professor Keith’s narrative has three salient points. The first is that in this work, unlike your typical man vs. nature narrative, you will not find mankind using science to conquer nature. The second is that it reveals how many behaved contrary to our expectations given their social standing – even if some individuals did behave as one might expect during a plague. Finally, the yellow fever epidemic had a decisive impact in shaping the Memphis of today. It is an excellent, well-researched, albeit depressing, piece of Memphian social history!

-Steve Shackelford, South Branch

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