I just got off the non-fiction train and I sure have traveled… Non-fiction requires readers to activate different mental schema. As we read, classify, organize, analyze, evaluate and connect our reading to our lives we’re building an expanded world view. This issue of Bookisshh looks at expansive non-fiction exploring crises of addiction and assaults on womanhood. Both works are political and graphic in nature, so gentle readers if you’re looking for a safe and tidy space, this issue is absent of this type of sanctuary. Contemplate before reading further.
Dopesick by Beth Macy / Investigative journalism
During the 1990s doctors and pharmaceutical corporations got together at a conference and discussed pain as the fifth vital sign. Doctors began to treat all pain as a chronic condition and the prescription for treatment was a most dangerous molecule–Oxycontin a most lethal opioid.
Investigative journalist, Beth Macy documents the geographic trajectory of the opioid epidemic as it worked its way down I81 all the way through Appalachia to Ohio and surrounding midwestern suburbs. Macy highlights the region, the unemployed, beaten down workforce targeted by marketers working for Purdue Pharmaceutical–the inventor, tester, and distributor of Oxycontin. Carefully, Macy demonstrates how Purdue looked at rates of pain-med prescription in geographic areas, then hired doctors and nurses to inform prescribing physicians, endorse the safety of Oxycontin and incentivize doctors with bonuses, freebies and sponsorship for writing scrips of Oxycontin to patients who would unknowingly become addicts.
Macy zeroes in on early grass roots efforts opposed to the continued use of Oxycontin. Opposition members include country doctors, clergy and families who lost their loved ones. The people on the ground firsthand witnessed dopesick and Beth Macy further clarifies the terminal endgame of dopesickness using case studies and shadowing a teenage user as she tries to get clean. It is heart wrenching what people endure once addicted and while attempting to get clean.
A rebirth of the next Hepatitis C and AIDS epidemic with hard data to support it is provided by Macy. She shows how Purdue created easy access to opioids and how physicians and government overlooked and ignored the greater dangers by continuing to allow the widespread use and renew patents. Macy shakes out the rug when it comes to the hidden stakeholders who benefit from keeping the epidemic alive. Further, the author identifies the participating cartels, arteries and main distributors of the drug while documenting the drug’s chemical evolution as it became less concentrated and more lethal. Macy demonstrates how a time-release chemical was formulated into Oxycontin and as result dealers began to cut the drug with Fentanyl and when prescription opportunities dried up, Heroin began its rise again.
From Macy, readers gain insight to see a cost benefit analysis between incarceration vs treatment. One will have to read this work to learn where mountains of money are wasted and troves of people die. Through Macy’s shadowed addict readers witness difficulties addicts experience when attempting to gain access to treatment. Macy makes a case for a dramatic bias in treatment options as most of the facilities are faith based with strict rules of being clean or drug free upon entering. It is heartbreaking…
Aptly titled, “Dopesick” is the state a person is in when they don’t consume the opioid. People actually get sick when they get off the drug and the symptoms range from pain, fever, spasms, nausea, diarrhea and more. One little molecule is all it takes for a person to become medically addicted and most people who take the drug do. However, Macy points to solutions to slow the fast progression of dopesick related death let alone keep it at bay. The notes section of her book identify research, non-profits where people can direct dollars or volunteer time.
“Dopesick” raises ethical questions. Ethical consideration is given to science and responsibility, chronic pain as it relates to terminal illness vs considerable discomfort, incentivizing medicine and drug related advertising and our role and responsibility as consumer, tax payer and voter. Meanwhile, very cursory discussion is given to the bad actors–the people behind Purdue who invented, tested, marketed and sold Oxycontin knowing all the while how lethal it is. The note section is longer than the actual book and for resourceful readers or fact checkers you can perform due diligence here. This is required reading for everyone because we are consumers, voters, investors and tax payers and we have a say in the scale of this epidemic.
Headscarves and Hymens by Mona Eltahawy / Social Justice
The MeToo movement has united women across the globe. The amount and type of coverage relevant to women’s issues have pointed to political systems that do and don’t offer or guarantee women choice to voice their concerns, participate in legislation of change, foster gender parity and force shifts in gender equity in the future. Headscarves and Hymens by Mona Eltahawy takes all of the previously mentioned and shows how women’s rights, equity and issues all come to a dead end in countries of the Middle East or where Islam is interpreted as Sharia law. Eltahawy lifts the veil on local communities obeying the beliefs and practice of Sharia–an extreme interpretation of a very old religious doctrine–older than the current interpreters and political power brokers therein. She walks readers through the streets, sacred spaces and legal system where women are abused and neglected with no rights to have otherwise.
As a work of investigative journalism, this book resonates deeply as it lays bare the practices of wearing niqab, hijab, burqa, and FGM (female genital mutilation). This book is not for readers who are unable to activate boundaries to enable gaining information in the context of horrific and painful actions enacted upon young girls and women. Eltahawy details the varied practice of FGM and virginity testing foisted upon women that leaves them terrified, in pain, and disconnected from their bodies and pleasure the body can offer yesterday, today or tomorrow.
Eltahawy intersperses her story of abandoning the headscarf, when, how and why. She details this retelling with reactions from both women and men for doing so and contrasts these attitudes with the West where Sharia is not the rule of law. Further folded into her narrative are the stories as told and collected by a variety of women activists seeking the liberate women from their prison-like existence.
The author shares that she wrote this book to dispel Islamophobia but to this end I think she defeats her purpose because reading this as a woman and mother it made me feel the powerlessness of women abroad and deeply sad for the pain they endure being alive in these countries under Sharia law. It does not cultivate a sense of welcome and open mindedness to granting access to the country I currently reside in. To the opposite effect however, this work makes me evaluate how laws and patriarchy are intricately connected and that this is a universal phenomena in need of amending in as many places possible. Further, reading this triggers one’s activism and desire to identify organizations helping women reclaim their body, freedom and safety in countries that don’t allow these things or see them as necessary.
The short and long term effects of living under Sharia law are clarified and as free and independent women in the United States, we have a unique privilege and responsibility to lend support. Eltahawy asks us to listen, she asks us to care, she asks us to witness where change has happened and which changes have been lasting.
Eltahawy, who makes her life in Cairo, Egypt and New York City, confides, women living under Sharia law everywhere, it is not hopeless especially when women listen, spread the word to our electorate and/or the private sector sanctions, war, etc. can be instituted. All women must insist on ending the war on women everywhere.