I’ve been thinking about how my medical background influenced the writing of Heart Wood – prompted by a recent invitation to participate on a panel of UC San Francisco Medical Center Alumni Fiction Writers – a Zoom event on March 15, 2022, at 6 pm. (Details are below).
In my eco-novel Heart Wood, I used family women from three centuries to show the steady progression of health concerns over time in the past, present, and future. Like the frog in cold water where the water is heated slowly until the frog boils to death, it’s easy to accommodate to changing health conditions as they slowly creep up on us – until they become alarming problems.
One of the benefits of being 76 years old is having the perspective of time. Starting in the 1980s, I worked for 20 years as a traveling school nurse in small rural northern California communities. Although I didn’t have a mule to tote my equipment down canyons and across rivers, my car was always piled high with file boxes and testing equipment. I served five small schools stretched between the Middle and South Yuba Rivers – all previous sites of the Gold Rush era’s practices of washing away hillsides and polluting rivers with heavy metals used to extract gold.
In those 20 years, I observed trends in children’s health. In the 1980s, children’s health problems were mainly allergies to bees and peanuts, vison and hearing problems, head lice, and assorted injuries. Fast forward to the 2000s where we now have an explosion of allergies and intolerances to foods, asthma, diabetes, cancers, attention deficit disorders, autism, anxiety, and suicide. Seeing these dramatic changes over time alarms me.
Imagine Eliza in Heart Wood in the 1800s reading a box of today’s breakfast cereal: “Does NOT contain gluten, GMOs, artificial flavors or colors, preservatives, pesticides, etc.” I’m sure she’d be incredulous that anyone would put those in foods in the first place!
Yet today, we take for granted having a list of what is NOT in our food so we can navigate the food aisle for the best choices, thankful for the growing number of grocery shelves devoted to food intolerances.
Turn up the heat and fast forward to 2075 where Amisha’s food choices consist mainly of colored Pharm.food packets specifically developed for the multitude of intolerances that the corporate-pharmaceutical industry was responsible for creating in the first place.
One of the underlying premises in Heart Wood is that it’s difficult to raise healthy children on an unhealthy planet. It matters to our children’s health that the atmosphere and oceans are infused with plastic nanoparticles, that drinking water is contaminated, that oil spills into the ocean or lakes, that rainforests are cut down, that food ingredients are manipulated. These seemingly small changes accumulate over time into lethal doses. But small positive changes accumulate over time as well. Let’s each now do what we can to care for the earth and our children’s future!
Here’s registration information for the panel discussion I will be on of three UCSF alumni authors of fictional work
Tuesday, March 15, 2022. ONLINE 6-7 pm Pacific time
A woman alone in Brooklyn during the 1918 Spanish Influenza pandemic. The connection between a small, oak writing desk and three family women whose lives are joined across centuries and generations. A cadre of peers fighting a coup in a dictator-controlled West Africa. These very different scenarios share a surprising link – all are snapshots of published fictional works written by UCSF alumni.
Join us for a panel discussion with three UCSF alumni authors led by moderator Sarah McClung, head of collection development at the UCSF Library. During this conversation, Shirley DicKard, BS ’68, RN; James Gottesman, MD ’70, resident alum; and Larry Hill, MD ’67, will share an exclusive glimpse into their stories’ fictional worlds and what brought them to life. We will also learn directly from these creative minds about whether their experiences at UCSF played a part in the stories, what their writing process was like, and how they navigated the publishing world.
This program is brought to you by the UCSF Office of Alumni Relations and UCSF Archives as part of the virtual event series in which distinguished UCSF alumni authors discuss their recently published books
Purchase Heart Wood:
Locally to support your independent book stores!
On AMAZON (paper, ebook)
Finalist for the Eric Hoffer Award’s Montaigne Medal for the most thought-provoking books that either illuminate, progress, or redirect thought.
Winner of Visionary Fiction -National Indie Excellence Awards