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My Own Country: A Doctor's Story

4.17  ·  Rating Details ·  7,372 Ratings  ·  647 Reviews
Nestled in the Smoky Mountains of eastern Tennessee, the town of Johnson City had always seemed exempt from the anxieties of modern American life. But when the local hospital treated its first AIDS patient, a crisis that had once seemed an “urban problem” had arrived in the town to stay.

Working in Johnson City was Abraham Verghese, a young Indian doctor specializing in i
Paperback, 432 pages
Published April 25th 1995 by Vintage (first published 1994)
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My Own Country: A Doctor's Story is Abraham Verghese's (author of the fictional Cutting for Stone) moving account of his years as a doctor in Tennessee, specializing in working with patients with AIDS. Verghese recounts his growth from a relative innocent first encountering AIDS to an exhausted veteran who has to come to terms with the fact that he could not save his patients. The years are the mid- to late-1980s and AZT is only beginning to be used at the end of this time and no other drugs hav ...more
Jun 20, 2008 Lori rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2008
Am I a book snob?

Because I'm finding that as I read a book, like this one, I keep asking myself why someone would waste so many words to say, essentially, nothing that sheds light on the story.

Why do I need to know every time the author got in his car to go somewhere, that he turned right on such and such street, then left onto that highway, and then there was a bend in the road...

For real?

I understand that he was trying to give the reader a sense of 'His Country,' but it became excessive. He o
May 04, 2010 Shelah rated it it was amazing
Abraham Verghese's Cutting for Stone was one of the best books I read last year. I'm not sure if it was my very favorite, but it was in the top two or three, for sure.

Although Cutting for Stone was fiction, My Own Country is a memoir, focusing on the years when Verghese, born in Africa to Indian parents, is a young infectious diseases doctor in rural Eastern Tennessee, right at the beginning of the AIDS epidemic. As one of the only physicians in the area willing and able to take care of the men
Apr 16, 2010 Melisa rated it it was amazing
This book pretty much fits the bill for my absolute favorite type of reading: passionate people writing beautifully about whatever they care most about and the way in which they are transformed by that caring. Also I love a good medical memoir so I hit the jackpot with this one.

I looked for this book after reading Verghese's Cutting for Stone recently. That novel was brilliant and, as I didn't want it to end, I went looking for more of Verghese's writing. It would be hard for me to say which b
Nov 08, 2010 Linda rated it it was amazing
If I could give it a 6 I would...stories and passion from the frontlines of the AIDs epidemic in areas that were unknown and uncovered, not the big cities, but the small towns where there was much less support and recognition...but then maybe not.

"I have lived for five years in a culture of disease, a small island in a sea of fear. I have seen many things there. I have seen how life speeds up and heightens in climates of extreme pain and emotion. It is hard to live in these circumstances, despit
Aug 25, 2013 Bill rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biography
My Own Country, a memoir by Abraham Verghese, uniquely describes the experience of an immigrant physician with the culture of Appalachia as he confronts the devastating medical and personal consequences of AIDS as AIDS patients sought his care as an infectious disease specialist in the 1980's. These patients grew up in the hills of east Tennessee, fled the ostracism towards gays there, and went to the cities of New York, Atlanta, and San Francisco. There, they felt liberated, accepted in the gay ...more
Apr 21, 2012 Ron rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
The author of this book is an Indian doctor, working at a hospital in Johnson city, Tennessee, at the start of the AIDS epidemic. His account is of being the only infectious diseases physician in a rural community at a time when the first wave of HIV-positive gay men were returning to their hometowns from New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. His observations of the men and women who come to him for care, and the relationships that have grown between them, are insightful and vivid. Though he ...more
Aug 12, 2010 Linda rated it it was amazing
Okay - so my brother Greg recommended I read Abraham Verghese's "Cutting For Stone". Since Greg has excellent literary taste I looked up the book and recommended it to many of my friends. However, I was "afraid" to read it because I thought it might make me sad. So instead I decided to read his non-fiction account of treating AIDs in Tennessee during the 1980s, "My Own Country". Cause yeah that wouldn't be sad! My gracious friend Molly had a copy of the book which she lent to me. I just finished ...more
Aug 20, 2012 Rachael rated it it was amazing
Wow - a fascinating account of one doctor's experience during ground-zero of the AIDS epidemic. Incredibly well-written and personal, Verghese paints a captivating picture of the utter fear, devastation, and hope in the early days of AIDS.

A specialist in infectious diseases, Verghese did not anticipate that his life in rural Johnson City, Tennessee would soon be consumed by AIDS. The disease was thought to be a problem of the big cities on the coasts. And of the gay community, which was nearly
Aug 02, 2009 Reid rated it liked it
This is a fine book about the early days of the HIV epidemic, and how perplexed and conflicted many were as they came to terms with their own feelings and reactions to the disease and those who contracted it. However, it also is a book in the longstanding tradition of HIV books that are self-congratulatory, maudlin, and self-pitying. The irony of HIV has often been that, while pleading for it to be treated as just another disease in order to normalize those who suffer from it rather than margina ...more
Aug 12, 2012 Ben rated it liked it
I wasn't expecting much literary prowess from a book I was required to read for medical school, but was pleasantly surprised by Dr. Verghese's seminal account of treating AIDs patients in 1980s rural Tennessee. His accounts delve into so many of the nuanced issues surrounding medicine: patient-doctor relationships, cultural values, work-life balance, but what makes him a good writer (and no doubt a good physician as well) is his painstaking attention to detail. He puts you into his head during t ...more
Jun 19, 2015 Amy rated it it was amazing
Excellent narrative of a young doctor who -- by virture of his infectious diseases specialty, his "foreign-ness" and his deep and utter compassion for others--becomes the "AIDS expert" in a small rural setting of East Tennessee in the mid-1980s, when the number of HIV-infected patients begins to rise. Though it's a nonfiction account, it reads like a novel while providing a fascinating and unflinching look at how AIDS affected the gay community, how it made its way from the urban centers into th ...more
Apr 05, 2012 Rae rated it liked it
Dr. Verghese earned four of my stars for his fictional Cutting for Stone, but I only offer three for this memoir. He tells of his years as a rural Tennessee internist, in the era of the discovery of HIV. Verghese shares many vignettes of the HIV patients he managed and the resistance and fear often encountered in the community.

The story is historically interesting, as HIV/AIDs is discovered in urban centers and migrates silently to small-town America. Certainly Verghese performed an enormous ser
Feb 26, 2011 Shannon rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir
I read this book after reading "Cutting for Stone;" I wanted to know more about the author who had penned one of my favorite books and what his real life was like. What I found was an intriguing story of what it is like to be an infectious disease doctor treating patients for which there is no known cure. Verghese struggled with all sorts of questions: How do you help prepare your patients for the inevitable? How do you council them through the ostracism of friends and family? How do you change ...more
Mar 28, 2012 Diane rated it it was amazing
I decided to read this book for two reasons. One, I really enjoyed Verghese’s “Cutting for Stone,” and two, a medical student (now MD) friend that I highly respect told me this book had influenced his career choices. The book was full of complexity for me and I related to the story on many levels. I have a long-standing interest in public health, so the story of AIDS coming to a rural southern town was quite powerful. The story covers about 1982-1990 so AIDS was not understood and basically untr ...more
David Guy
Sep 17, 2016 David Guy rated it it was amazing
I’m full of admiration for this book, and there’s no single reason. It’s an AIDS memoir, told from the standpoint of the doctor who cared for the patients, and who just happened to be a gifted writer who would later write a bestselling novel. It tells the story of the patients in a completely sympathetic way, even though Verghese arrived at this job knowing little about AIDS or about gay culture. The way Verghese is honest about his initial naiveté is endearing, and he shows the same kind of hon ...more
Book Concierge
In 1985 Abraham Verghese, a young Indian doctor specializing in infectious diseases, was working in Johnson City, Tennessee. Nestled in the Smoky Mountains, the town had always seemed exempt from the anxieties and modern American life. But that summer, the local hospital treated its first AIDS patient, and before long a crisis that had once seemed an “urban problem” had arrived in town to stay.

This is Verghese's memoir of that time. Using several case studies to illustrate, he tells the communit
Apr 07, 2011 Carolinecarver rated it really liked it
Verghese is amazing...great writer, albeit a little detail overloaded--sometimes you get the feeling he is practicing his writing. Be that as it may, he is clearly a caring doctor on the cusp of what will become the AIDS epidemic of our time. Takes place in Tennessee where the first cases of AIDS reach his rural community, and the sense of place is as real as the people he treats. Insightful, sympathetic and exhausting all at once.
Jul 31, 2015 Jessica rated it it was amazing
This isn't a perfect book but I am giving it five stars because it provides a well-written and fascinating perspective on the early days of the AIDS fight. Dr. Abraham Verghese is best known for his novel, Cutting for Stone, but before he was a best-selling author, he was an infectious disease specialist. Early in his career, he landed in a small city in eastern Tennessee. This was the mid-1980s and AIDS cases were starting to appear in places other than San Francisco and New York. Verghese foun ...more
Jun 06, 2015 John rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Moving, powerful and painful, "My Own Country" (copyright 1994) is a memoir about AIDS coming to east Tennessee in the 1980s. The author was initially the only infectious diseases doctor in the region to take on HIV infection -- which initially did not exist there. But first one case came Verghese's way, then another ... and another. Before long, he was treating 10 times as many cases in Johnson City, Tenn., as the Centers for Disease Control projections suggested for such a relatively isolated, ...more
A most unusual doctor that can spend a half hour or forty five minutes with a patient on a first visit and not say anything but just listen to the patient. And he's not concerned about insurance or if he'll get paid. But this is a doctor who has great deal of interest and genuine concern for the well-being of the people he meets in his new environment. Tends to be too wordy though. What he says about people is more to the point than his other forays into descriptions of nature or landscapes.

This was a very powerful account of the life if an infectious diseases specialist at the time when AIDS was first appearing in his area of rural Tennessee. I loved the writing of Verghese and it felt very like fiction at times and as I had loved his novel, Cutting for Stone, I found this an enjoyable way to tell his story and the stories of his patients.

The personal tales of his first patients and their local support group brought this book to life. I became quite emotionally involved with thei
Jan 31, 2010 Amy rated it really liked it
I don't read a lot of non-fiction, but somehow stumbled on this with an Amazon gift card burning a hole in my pocket. It's the autobiography of an infectious diseases doctor of foreign descent during the mid- 80s, when AIDS and HIV were first being understood. Dr. Verghese is working in an East Tennessee hospital when their first AIDS case comes to his hospital.

What's fascinating about this story is the intersection of experiences as an outsider: an Indian doctor in Tennessee, those with the HI
May 01, 2016 Maggie rated it really liked it
This is a memoir about 5 years in the life of an infectious diseases physician, who practices in a small town in Tennessee in the 1980s and sees the onset and rise of AIDS cases in the area.

Abraham Verghese is a very intelligent, human, thoughtful, compassionate, ethical, and passionate doctor ministering as the only infectious diseases expert to Johnson City, Tennessee and the VA hospital there. He is also a husband and father of two infant boys, which commands and demands its own priorities.
Jun 12, 2013 Sheryl rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Abraham Verghese is a fantastic writer. Cutting for Stone was the first of his books that I read and loved it! So, I decided to read My Own Country. When I started the book I read in the forward that he was a graduate of the Iowa Writers Workshop, enough said. That explained to me why Cutting for Stone was so good and I knew I was in for a remarkable read in this book. It was a emotionally encompassing experience for me. I felt that I knew his family, his patients, the healthcare providers and h ...more
Jan 31, 2011 Lisa rated it liked it
Another good book by the author of "Cutting For Stone." He can be a bit wordy, though, so being anxious to see what was going to happen, I skimmed sections.

This is about Verghese's experience being an Indian doctor in a small town in Tennessee when HIV began to hit the news in the mid-1980s. Remember that time? No one knew much about this horrible disease and so much was speculation and fear. Being in the hospital setting when it happened, Verghese, an Infectious disease physician, became the p
Apr 09, 2012 Sharon rated it really liked it
Abraham Verghese is a medical doctor of infectious diseases. This book describes the journey that led him to that specialty in his career, after the young Indian doctor decided to take up practice in the town of Johnson City, nestled in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. After the hospital treated its first AIDS patient, Dr. Verghese became the local expert, soon treating a great number of male and female patients who came from the surrounding small towns. He tells us the stories of his patients ...more
This is a memoir of a young infectious disease specialist who worked in Johnson City, Tennessee, in the mid 1980s. AIDS was a new disease, rarely found in non-urban settings. Although Dr Verghese could treat the secondary infections, there was no good treatment for HIV until AZT became available. He was very compassionate when dealing with these patients, treating them with respect and dignity. He was also involved in outreach programs directed to the gay population and others to help prevent th ...more
Oct 29, 2013 David rated it it was amazing
I just finished reading MY OWN COUNTRY: A DOCTOR'S STORY by Abraham Verghese. I think it's a WONDERFUL book. Amazing and beautiful and sweet and sad and terrifying and gorgeous. Beautifully written. Exquisite prose.

And a VERY disturbing book. The book is an exploration and investigation of the early days of the AIDS epidemic, and of the people who were infected by the virus, and of the physicians, nurses, and others who cared for them. It focuses on the area in and around Johnson City, Tennessee
Feb 05, 2013 Katie rated it really liked it
Medical memoir about an Indian doctor living in rural Tennessee in the 1980s in the dawn of the age of AIDS. Verghese was an infectious disease specialist focusing on AIDS. He basically lives there during the time when AIDS was first discovered, throughout the 1980s and ending his time there exactly as the 80's come to close, on New Year's Eve 1989.

Many topics are covered here: prejudices against those with AIDS back then (you'd think it would be worse in the rural south, but really much of the
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My Own Country 5 49 Apr 07, 2013 11:52AM  
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Abraham Verghese, MD, MACP, is Professor for the Theory and Practice of Medicine at the Stanford University School of Medicine and Senior Associate Chair of the Department of Internal Medicine.

Born of Indian parents who were teachers in Ethiopia, he grew up near Addis Ababa and began his medical training there. When Emperor Haile Selassie was deposed, he completed his training at Madras Medical Co
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“I felt sorry that he had suffered so long in the hospital, sorry that even in his last minutes our mindless technology had so rudely interrupted his transition” 3 likes
“I realized that I could have done more for him if I had been in his house. I would have pushed morphine--large doses. Morphine disconnects the head from the body, makes the isthmus of a neck vanish and diminishes the awareness of suffering. It is like a magic trick: the head on the pillow, at peace, while the chest toils away.” 3 likes
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