Under the skin The hidden toll of racism on American lives and on the health of our nation

Linda Villarosa

Book - 2022

"The first book to tell the full story of race and health in America today, showing the toll racism takes on individuals and the health of our nation, by a groundbreaking journalist at the New York Times Magazine"--

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2nd Floor New Shelf 362.108996/Villarosa (NEW SHELF) Due Oct 5, 2022
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New York : Doubleday, a division of Penguin Random House LLC [2022]
First edition
Physical Description
269 pages ; 24 cm
Includes bibliographical references (pages 219-247) and index.
Main Author
Linda Villarosa (author)
  • Everything I thought was wrong
  • The dangerous myth that Black bodies are different
  • Unequal treatment
  • Something about being Black is bad for your body and your baby
  • Where you live matters
  • Strong, loud, and angry: The invisibility of Black emotional pain
  • Discrimination and ill-treatment can harm every body
  • Putting the care back in health care: Solutions.
Review by Booklist Reviews

*Starred Review* This powerful, carefully researched book reveals the significant health challenges faced by Black Americans simply due to being Black. Through clear analysis, Villarosa (Passing for Black) documents her claims with decades' worth of research, and her findings regarding infant and maternal mortality rates alone are startling: infants born to college-educated Black parents are twice as likely to die as infants born of similarly educated white parents; a Black woman with an advanced degree is more likely to die related to pregnancy and childbirth than a white woman with an eighth-grade education. Definitive answers are elusive, but signs indicate that weathering—being subjected to daily microaggressions and veiled discrimination—causes stress that might result in low birth weights. Outlandishly false beliefs (that African Americans experience less pain than white people, for instance) combined with a lack of research on eating disorders, depression, and other emotional and mental illnesses within the Black community may also be contributing factors (and apply to increased rates of diabetes, kidney disease, and lung disorders). Villarosa documents unending examples of social racism, inbred bias, and general neglect, but somehow remains hopeful for change, introducing individuals and programs that are making positive differences. Her thoughtful, personal account raises issues that affect all Americans. Copyright 2022 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

A National Magazine Award finalist for her reporting on maternal and infant mortality among black mothers and babies in the United States, Villarosa expands her purview to detail what numerous studies have affirmed: for Black Americans, discrimination and poor health are linked, with Black patients experiencing worse treatment and worse outcomes than their white counterparts. Government neglect, environmentally compromised neighborhoods, the stress of coping with ongoing racism—all contribute to this situation, with Villarosa interviewing experts and drawing on a wealth of scientific data. Copyright 2021 Library Journal.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

Villarosa (The Black Parenting Book) expands her previous award-winning reporting on mortality among Black mothers and infants into this wider study of the effects of racism on the lives and health of Black Americans. The ailments that tend to affect Black Americans, she argues, are too often ascribed solely to poverty and lack of education, while the problems of a discriminatory healthcare system, lingering myths about Black bodies, and the long-term stresses of constantly navigating a racist society are overlooked. Villarosa combines important studies on facets of Black health with historical facts and personal experiences—including accounts of medical ill-treatment ranging from neglect to forced sterilization—to prove the extent to which multiple levels of institutionalized racism impact the well-being of Black Americans. She even calls out her own previous misapprehensions of the topic, aiming to demonstrate the ease of underestimating this issue's pervasive effects. VERDICT An eye-opening, heartbreaking study of the racism deeply embedded in U.S. medicine and society; critical for any reader interested in racism's effects on quality of life.—Kathleen McCallister Copyright 2022 Library Journal.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

Journalist Villarosa (Body & Soul) takes a stunning look at the racial disparities in health outcomes for Black and white Americans. Contending that these health disparities, which persist across different levels of income and education, demonstrate "the impact of insidious discrimination associated with the lived experience of being Black in America," Villarosa cites evidence that white physicians prescribe lower levels of pain medication to Black patients, that infant and maternal mortality rates are higher among African Americans, that Black communities bear greater costs of environmental pollution and climate change than white communities, and that "toxic stress" associated with racism prematurely age Black Americans' immune systems. According to Villarosa, these ill effects are not only caused by encounters with racist individuals, but also by a social structure that deprioritizes African Americans' needs and ability to access resources that more privileged people take for granted. Skillfully interweaving historical and medical facts with empathetic profiles of people who have been affected by HIV/AIDS, Covid-19, and other health crises enabled by structural racism, Villarosa delivers a passionate call for equality in the American medical system. The result is an urgent and utterly convincing must-read. (June) Copyright 2022 Publishers Weekly.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

"The first book to tell the full story of race and health in America today, showing the toll racism takes on individuals and the health of our nation, by a groundbreaking journalist at the New York Times Magazine"--

Review by Publisher Summary 2

Drawing on real-life human stories, and offering incontrovertible proof, this dramatic, tragic and necessary book lays bare the forces in the American healthcare system and in American society that cause Black people to “live sicker and die quicker” compared to their white counterparts. (social science). Simultaneous.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

"A stunning exposé of why Black people in our society 'live sicker and die quicker'—an eye-opening game changer."—Oprah DailyFrom an award-winning writer at the New York Times Magazine and a contributor to the 1619 Project comes a landmark book that tells the full story of racial health disparities in America, revealing the toll racism takes on individuals and the health of our nation.In 2018, Linda Villarosa's New York Times Magazine article on maternal and infant mortality among black mothers and babies in America caused an awakening. Hundreds of studies had previously established a link between racial discrimination and the health of Black Americans, with little progress toward solutions. But Villarosa's article exposing that a Black woman with a college education is as likely to die or nearly die in childbirth as a white woman with an eighth grade education made racial disparities in health care impossible to ignore.Now, in Under the Skin, Linda Villarosa lays bare the forces in the American health-care system and in American society that cause Black people to “live sicker and die quicker” compared to their white counterparts. Today's medical texts and instruments still carry fallacious slavery-era assumptions that Black bodies are fundamentally different from white bodies. Study after study of medical settings show worse treatment and outcomes for Black patients. Black people live in dirtier, more polluted communities due to environmental racism and neglect from all levels of government. And, most powerfully, Villarosa describes the new understanding that coping with the daily scourge of racism ages Black people prematurely. Anchored by unforgettable human stories and offering incontrovertible proof, Under the Skin is dramatic, tragic, and necessary reading.