Virology: Essays for the Living, the Dead, and the Small Things in Between

Norton. Jun. 2022. 336p. ISBN 9780393881363. pap. $16.95. SCI
Osmundson (microbiology, New York Univ.; Inside/Out) writes with a raw and urgent fierceness in this unique collection of essays. The scientist, researcher, and HIV/AIDS advocate (he reveres early activists like the group ACT-UP) captures a moment in time—the first two years of the COVID pandemic—and situates it in a larger historical context of identity, disease, and medicine. Writing from the perspective of a queer, white microbiologist, Osmundson intersperses intensely personal diary entries with his knowledge of viruses and viral diseases (especially COVID and HIV). He examines how the medical establishment, a capitalist society, and the government, use a collective fear of disease to subjugate and discriminate against BIPOC and queer people and other marginalized groups. Osmundson references the work of many great writers and thinkers, including Audre Lorde, Susan Sontag, James Baldwin, Eula Biss, José Esteban Muñoz, and Octavia Butler, making this a rich reading experience. His forceful, honest reckoning with the medical establishment and its relationship to race and disease takes to task even allies within the science and LGBTQ+ communities.
VERDICT Osmundson writes with hope for a world where racial inequities are addressed and people treat each other with love and kindness. Just as viruses change and mutate, so, too, can people, he suggests. Recommended.
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