When Eula Biss became a mother, she stepped into a new world of fear: fear of the government, the medical establishment, the contents of her child's air, food, mattress and vaccines.
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. Weaving her personal experiences with an exploration of classical and contemporary literature, Biss considers what vaccines, and the debate around them, mean for her own child, her immediate community and the wider world.
On Immunity is an inoculation against our fear and a moving account of how we are all interconnected; our bodies and our fates.
Eula Biss is the author of Notes from No Man’s Land, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for criticism, and The Balloonists. Her essays have appeared in the Believer and Harper’s Magazine. She teaches at Northwestern University and lives in Chicago.
‘So well written, it’s unbelievable’ Bill Gates
‘It’s fascinating reading, made possible by Biss’ particular blend of scepticism and empathy...Although the book is beautifully written in minimal prose and organised sharply, it is hard to overstate the wealth of information threaded and elaborated throughout its tidy, sturdy structure.’ Saturday Paper
‘Her [Biss] exploration of the history of vaccinating is absorbing.’ Adelaide Advertiser
‘She advances from all sides, like a chess player, drawing on science, myth, literature...What she seems to be suggesting is that knowledge isn’t an inoculation. It doesn’t happen just once. There are things that must be learned and learned again, seen first with the mind and felt later in the body.’ New York Times Book Review
‘This elegant, intelligent and very beautiful book...is elliptical, elusive, neither collection nor narrative exactly but more a set of questions about how we frame our interactions with the world.’ Los Angeles Times
‘The power of Biss’s book stems, in the end, from its subtle insistence on the interrelationship of things—of the mythological and the medical, the private and the public, the natural and the unnatural—and on the idea that one’s relationship with disease and immunity is not distinct from one’s relationship with the world.’ Slate
‘Biss’s project, it turns out, is far grander than a simple explanation of the facts...On Immunity is as much a book about trust as it is a book about vaccines.’ Millions
‘On Immunity is a history, a personal narrative, ultimately a powerful argument that reads, the whole time, like a poem.’ Guernica
‘On Immunity casts a spell...There’s drama in watching this smart writer feel her way through this material. She’s a poet, an essayist and a class spy. She reveals herself as believer and apostate, moth and flame.’ New York Times‘[Biss] brings a sober, erudite, and humane voice to an often overheated debate.’ New Yorker
‘Brightly informative, giving readers a sturdy platform from which to conduct their own research and take personal responsibility.’ STARRED Review, Kirkus
‘On Immunity needs no topical hook to recommend it, such is its power as a work of literature. Eula Biss is as fine a thinker as she is a stylist.’ Sydney Morning Herald
‘Biss has produced a book that’s like a luxurious quilt, beautiful and comforting...[her] approach is subtle and indirect, circling the subject to illuminate it from different angles.’ Weekend Press
‘On Immunity is essential reading for anyone genuinely interested in the subject. Pro or con, it will shake up what you think you know.’ Australian
‘Thoughtful and thought provoking.’ Otago Daily Times
‘A lively examination of many of the troubling aspects of how we make decisions for ourselves and our communities...[Biss] dispels myths and delineates our fears. She notes her own fallibilities and transient misconceptions, and through this brisk and readable book enlightens us all.’ On MAS
‘This important book is highly recommended for anyone interested in how vaccination works, its history and current debates... On Immunity richly rewards a casual dip and, indeed, can be sampled in almost any order to experience the beguiling, life-saving world of the immune system and all that surrounds it.’ Australian Book Review