American Pandemic.

Author:Millard, Elizabeth
Position:Book review

Nancy K. Bristow (author); AMERICAN PANDEMIC; Oxford University Press (Nonfiction: History) 34.95 ISBN: 9780199811342

Byline: Elizabeth Millard

In the years between 1918 and 1920, influenza swept across the globe, killing at least fifty million people, with more than half a million of them in the United States.

What's particularly striking about the epidemic is the way that it seems largely forgotten, especially by Americans, believes Nancy Bristow, a Professor of History at the University of Puget Sound in Washington. Author of Making Men Moral: Social Engineering during the Great War, Bristow is the great-granddaughter of two of the pandemic's fatalities, and she begins with that story. Learning the details about the deaths as an adult, she wonders about why she wasn't told more as a child, and that question deepens her interest in the pandemic.

"My family, it might seem, was following a pattern of forgetting common among Americans," she writes. "Such a conclusion, though, glosses over what was actually a quiet process of remembering." In her work on the pandemic, Bristow goes a long way toward offering a cultural portrait that shines light on the causes of the nation's public amnesia. Her attempt at creating a larger "remembering" provides a compelling, expertly researched look at an important era in our country's history.

Bristow brings together multiple voices to create a fuller perspective of the pandemic, highlighting those of patients...

To continue reading