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Saturday, November 27, 2021

Davis book of the year is “Mountains beyond Mountains”

Health care and international relations will be the themes of next year’s campus and community book project. Tracy Kidder’s non-fiction work Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, A Man Who Would Cure the World was chosen by a panel on campus as the book that will be woven into courses across the disciplines at UC Davis.

Kidder, a Vietnam veteran who met Farmer in Haiti in 1994, writes about Farmer’s work with health and social justice programs in Haiti. A main theme of the book is the human right to health care and offering more health care options to the poor.

“I think a lot of different disciplines could benefit,” said Gary Sue Goodman, assistant director of the University Writing Program.

The relationship between reading Mountains Beyond Mountains and the humanities departments is obvious, but Goodman said even specialists in politics or the medical field can benefit from Kidder’s writing.

“International Relations could look at the relationship between the United States and Haiti,” Goodman said. “I think there’s a lot of different ways to frame the story.”

UC Davis research physiologist Steven Anderson, who served on the book selection panel, said students in the biological and medical fields can learn from the book.

“I’m interested in the political perspective. I think it has something very important for medical professionals in the perspective of providing health care for everyone,” Anderson said.

In Mountains Beyond Mountains, Farmer works to provide health care options to Haitians with limited resources like quality sanitation.

“You don’t have to have very expensive methods for health care,” Anderson said.

In the book, Kidder points out the benefits of vaccinations for children and women’s literacy for the prevention of AIDS. Anderson said those in the medical profession can learn from Farmer’s emphasis on preventing disease, not just treating it.

“[The book] addresses issues like being proactive rather than reactive,” Anderson said.

Anderson said readers will be able to relate to Farmer’s story even if they are unfamiliar with the medical situation in Haiti. Farmer works to prevent the spread of tuberculosis, a disease that could easily spread to the United States, where there already exists several antibiotic resistant strains.

Anderson said Farmer is also concerned with how cultural differences affect how countries value health care.

“[Farmer] has an awareness of how culture contributes to health care needs,” Anderson said.

The issue of health care for all is currently controversial issue in California’s own politics. There has long been a debate in the state over whether illegal immigrants should have access to health care in California. Californians can also relate to the countrywide debate over universal health care for all citizens. In Mountains Beyond Mountains, Kidder makes a connection between poverty and poor health care.

“Meager incomes don’t guarantee abysmal health statistics, but the two usually go together,” Kidder writes in the book.

Goodman said that the themes in Mountains Beyond Mountains “dovetail” well with the themes of UC Davis’ centennial celebration this fall.

“One of themes is the mission of a university to do research that has an impact on the world,” Goodman said.

Mountains Beyond Mountains was chosen by a panel of professors and department heads across campus. The panel accepted book nominations and then read the nominated books over the summer.

Goodman will be speaking about how to use the book in courses Friday in 126 Voorhies from 12:10 to 1:30 p.m. The talk is free.

Goodman said that Kidder will visit Davis in December to speak about his book. On Dec. 1, Kidder will be at the Mondavi Center to participate in a panel discussion and author lecture.

MADELINE McCURRY SCHMIDT can be reached at campus@californiaaggie.com.XXX

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