On Immunity is broadly about the anti-vaccination movement and Biss' feelings about it as a new mother, but it's one of those books which is really about America, about protection, metaphor and how we behave as individuals when our communities feel under siege. More to the point, it feels more potently relevant and necessary than it did two years ago when I first read it. It's the kind of book that stays with you long afterwards, growing roots. Eula Biss is one of the best non-fiction writers working today — like Joan Didion and Susan Sontag, her thinking is sharp and precise, but her prose is creative and lyrical and moves in the same kind of cross-genre loops as Maggie Nelson and Anne Carson.— Madeleine
“Biss' essays about the immunization debate range from the personal to the body politic and back again. Drawing on her experiences as a mother and employing an astonishing diversity of sources, Biss plumbs our ancient fear of infection. Acknowledging the permeability of both our borders and bodies, she arrives at the conclusion that 'immunity is a shared space-a garden we tend together.' Biss' precise language and wry humor make On Immunity as engaging as it is informative.”
— Brooke Alexander, Brazos Bookstore, Houston, TX
Upon becoming a new mother, Eula Biss addresses a chronic condition of fear—fear of the government, the medical establishment, and what is in your child’s air, food, mattress, medicine, and vaccines. She finds that you cannot immunize your child, or yourself, from the world.
In this bold, fascinating book, Biss investigates the metaphors and myths surrounding our conception of immunity and its implications for the individual and the social body. As she hears more and more fears about vaccines, Biss researches what they mean for her own child, her immediate community, America, and the world, both historically and in the present moment. She extends a conversation with other mothers to meditations on Voltaire’s Candide, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, Susan Sontag’s AIDS and Its Metaphors, and beyond. On Immunity is a moving account of how we are all interconnected—our bodies and our fates.
EULA BISS is the author of Notes from No Man’s Land, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for criticism, and The Balloonists. Her essays have appeared in the Believer and Harper’s Magazine. She teaches at Northwestern University and lives in Chicago, Illinois.