On Immunity: An Inoculation [Audiobook Review]

Title: On Immunity: An Inoculation
Author: Eula Biss
Narrator: Tamara Marston
Genre: Nonfiction
Pages: 216
Audio: 6.4 hours
Year: 2014
Publisher: Highbridge
Source: Public Library
Book Rating: 3.5/5
Audio Rating: 4/5

Summary (from the publisher):

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.

My Thoughts:

I went into this one a very strong vaccine supporter, so I didn’t need convincing, but I found the history of the vaccines and the science behind it an interesting study.

I didn’t necessarily love her storytelling style, though. She approached this in a personal way, as a mother making her own decision to vaccinate or not to vaccinate. She then tries to relate to all mothers and very clearly has the universal mother in mind as her audience. I wanted something a little more…objective.

I also didn’t quite get what all of the Dracula references added. Perhaps that’s me being dense. Or tired.

This is a quick read and definitely a worthwhile one.

I don’t think this book is going to change anyone’s mind. The people I know who really believe that vaccination is a personal choice that doesn’t affect anyone else or that the CDC and “Big Pharma” are conspiring against us are not going to be persuaded by this book. It seems our society, or at least a not-insignificant faction of it, will continue to deny science, whether it be vaccines or climate change or a myriad of other things, despite insurmountable evidence backing it. This book isn’t going to stop that. But I applaud the effort.

Audiobook Thoughts:

Nothing much to say here. Tamara Marston does a fine job with this, which is all you really want in nonfiction.

6 thoughts on “On Immunity: An Inoculation [Audiobook Review]

  1. Ti April 2, 2015 / 11:49 am

    Definitely a hot topic. I never even blinked when vaccination time came for my kids until the recent STD and cervical cancer vaccines came out. I feel as if they came out with little testing and so have not given them to the kids as of yet. I left it up to the Teen and the Girl… I am still thinking on. She was supposed to have it at age 9. She will be 12 in October so we may skip it. Still not sure.


    • Michelle April 2, 2015 / 12:04 pm

      I think that one is in a separate class. I actually declined the HPV vaccine for myself. I was still young enough to get it when it came out, but I was already married and determined that my risk of contracting an STD at that point in my life was (theoretically) very low (although my doctor urged me to consider that my “situation could change”). Unlike many other vaccines, I didn’t think my decision to refuse that one would impact anyone else. I don’t actually know what I’ll do with E when it’s time for that one. Hopefully we know more by then.


      • Erin (Erin Reads) April 2, 2015 / 9:02 pm

        I’m with you both on this one. I declined the HPV vaccine for myself, too. I don’t have kids (yet), but living in California where we’re having issues with the number of non-vaccinated kids, I don’t need convincing about the pros of the more traditional vaccines.

        I keep seeing this book pop up. It sounds interesting, and I think I’d like the history, though I bet the style issue you mentioned will bother me too, Michelle.


  2. Trish April 6, 2015 / 11:53 am

    I just finished this one last week and found the Notes section to be the most interesting part of the book (I mean, it was all interesting but I wanted more of the history and facts rather than personal accounts…and yes–what was all that Dracula business!). Loved the narration, though.

    The other day I was at a friends’ house and vaccines came up (maybe because of the flu?). They were shocked that I’m pro-vaxxer. I guess because being a blogger makes me seem like the type of person who would be against them?


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