My Own Country: A Doctor's Story
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My Own Country: A Doctor's Story

4.18 of 5 stars 4.18  ·  rating details  ·  4,818 ratings  ·  542 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...more
Paperback, 448 pages
Published April 25th 1995 by Vintage (first published 1994)
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Lori
Jun 20, 2008 Lori rated it 2 of 5 stars
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...more
Shelah
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...more
Bill
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
Rachael
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...more
Melisa
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...more
Linda
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...more
Ron
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
Rae
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...more
Reid
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
Shannon
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
Linda
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
Diane
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
Ben
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
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...more
Carolinecarver
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.
Heather
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...more
Amy
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...more
Maggie
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....more
Sheryl
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
Lisa Christen
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...more
Sharon
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
David
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...more
Katie
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...more
Wanda
After reading and loving Cutting for Stone, I had high expectations for this earlier Verghese book. I was frankly a bit disappointed.
I still want Verghese to be my physician. He is compassionate, courageous and he loves his chosen vocation. He also is intelligent and knows how to write well. But this was not Cutting for Stone. It is not nearly as well written, although it may be unfair too compare the two. CFS was a novel and this book is a memoir; also CFS was written after My Own Country and...more
Colleen
Jan 29, 2012 Colleen rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: those who like Verghese' writing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Angela
Apr 24, 2010 Angela is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
Although written with Verghese's customarily deep psychological insight, and sensitivity, this book also contains frank and graphic discussions of the medical and sexual issues pertaining to the spread and treatment of AIDS from the point of view of an African born South Asian American doctor working in a rural community hospital in the US in the early to mid eighties, when awareness of the virus was just beginning to enter American consciousness even in the medical community.
The sometimes visc...more
Jamie
3.5 stars. This is a memoir by the author of the novel Cutting for Stone, which I enjoyed very much. This book focuses on the years that Dr. Verghese spent treating AIDS patients in a small town in east Tennessee in the 1980s. It's a good read: a vivid reminder of the early years of the AIDS pandemic as well as an interesting account of an Indian man who grew up in Africa making a home in the rural southern US.

Verghese's specialty of choice, infectious disease, was not a lucrative one, and this...more
Katie
In this book, Abraham Verghese writes about treating AIDS patients as a doctor in rural Tennessee in the 1980s. Verghese was born and raised in Ethiopia to Indian parents, attended medical school in India, and completed his residency in Johnson City, Tennesee. He spent a few years in Boston, and then returned to Johnson City and worked in the hospital there, specializing in infectious diseases. By default, he became the HIV/AIDS specialist for Johnson City, and much of the surrounding rural area...more
Mike
I hope those who found this author's ambitious novel "Cutting for Stone" problematic might consider turning to this earlier and eloquent non-fiction work of his, a highly meaningful, moving, and compelling personal memoir and thus a very different reading experience. I would actually give this book four-and-a-half stars. It was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for non-fiction, and deservedly so. On the cover, lines about the book written by Perri Klass in "The New York Times...more
Celeste
I ordered this book on a whim from Amazon.com. I really enjoy finding good nonfiction books.

I couldn't help but inhale this book. Verghese writes so well. He seemlessly trasitions from paragraphs of informative medical background to heart wrenching narrative. He connected himself and the reader to each person in the book, each patient, doctor, nurse, and family member. I was vivid and touching. I found myself saying, "I never knew." I was a child during much of the setting of the book. I am enam...more
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My Own Country 5 45 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...more
More about Abraham Verghese...
Cutting for Stone The Tennis Partner Soundings: Doctors Life Age Aids Short Stories The Maramon Convention

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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” 2 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.” 2 likes
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