cover image My Own Country: A Doctor's Story of a Town and Its People in the Age of AIDS

My Own Country: A Doctor's Story of a Town and Its People in the Age of AIDS

Abraham Verghese, A. Verghese. Simon & Schuster, $22.5 (347pp) ISBN 978-0-671-78514-7

When infectious-disease specialist Verghese, the Ethiopian-born son of Indian schoolteachers, emigrated to the U.S. and settled in Johnson City, Tenn., in the mid-1980s, he finally felt at peace ``in my own country'' at last. But his work at the Johnson City Medical Center soon led him into a shadow world of Bible-belt AIDS, often without the support of his colleagues. Verghese discovered a local gay community that was then untested for the HIV virus. If revealed, these people's closeted relationships would have, writes Verghese, made them stand out ``like Martians.'' The author tells the stories of several patients, including the gay man who must reconcile with his father and the ``innocent'' man who has contracted AIDS through a contaminated blood transfusion but who, concerned about society's response to his plight, keeps his disease a secret even though he believes that ``this thing, this virus, is from hell, from the devil himself.'' Verghese reveals his own confusions about homosexuality, immigrant identity and his wife's fears about his health. Writing with an outsider's empathy and insight, casting his chronicle in graceful prose, he offers a memorable tale that both captures and transcends time and place. Paperback rights to Vintage; author tour. (May)