Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

Out of the Shadow of Leprosy: The Carville Letters and Stories of the Landry Family

Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

Out of the Shadow of Leprosy: The Carville Letters and Stories of the Landry Family

Article excerpt

Out of the Shadow of Leprosy: The Carville Letters and Stories of the Landry Family. By Claire Manes. (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2013. Pp. xvi, 211. $28.00, ISBN 978-1-61703-776-4.)

Out of the Shadow of Leprosy: The Carville Letters and Stories of the Landry Family is neither a history of American leprosy nor a history of the leprosarium at Carville, Louisiana. It does, however, enhance our understanding of the social stigma accompanying Hansen's disease and the unwarranted fear and revulsion associated with leprosy. Today there are effective treatments for Hansen's disease, but they were not available during the first four decades of the twentieth century when Mycobacterium leprae infected the five children of Joseph and Lucie Landry. All five were diagnosed with the disease as adults, entered Carville, and subsequently died at the institution. Their lives illustrate how a fearful and ignorant society isolated and confined those identified as lepers.

The United States government eventually administered two confinement/ isolation sites: on Kalaupapa Peninsula of Moloka'i Island in Hawaii and at Carville, Louisiana. In recent years, Janine Richardson, Pennie Moblo, Kerri Inglis, and James Flexner have researched social and political aspects of the Hawaiian experience, focusing their scholarship on instruments and institutions of isolation. While Carville's institutional history has received far less attention, Michelle T. Moran's Colonizing Leprosy: Imperialism and the Politics of Public Heath in the United States (Chapel Hill, 2007) provides an excellent introduction, John Parascandola has written articles on treatment research conducted there, and Amy Fairchild has examined Carville's patients' rights movement. Marcia G. Gaudet's Carville: Remembering Leprosy in America (Jackson, Miss., 2004) studies the community that the patients created, while Betty Martin's Miracle at Carville (New York, 1950), Jose P. …

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