cover image Weathering: The Extraordinary Stress of Ordinary Life in an Unjust Society

Weathering: The Extraordinary Stress of Ordinary Life in an Unjust Society

Arline T. Geronimus. Little, Brown Spark, $30 (368p) ISBN 978-0-316-25797-8

Neither genetic differences nor unhealthy lifestyles are at the root of racial health disparities in the U.S., according to this powerhouse study. Geronimus, a professor of public health at the University of Michigan, instead places the blame on “the physiological effects of living in marginalized communities that bear the brunt of racial, ethnic, religious, and class discrimination.” Labeling these effects as “weathering,” Geronimus documents how the struggles to earn a living wage, to find affordable and safe housing, and to access decent healthcare weaken the immune systems of poor and marginalized people and cascade into early-onset chronic diseases and shortened life expectancies. For people of color, professional success is no refuge, as the effort required to be upwardly mobile and vigilant in the face of systemic discrimination has long-term negative health consequences. Throughout, Geronimus uncovers and forcefully critiques harmful narratives in healthcare and social policy, including an “exaggerated” emphasis on the benefits of postponing childbearing (which puts Black mothers, in particular, at greater risk for “poor birth outcomes”) and “age-washing” (which presupposes that there is “a universally uniform growth and aging process” and discounts the effects of racism and classism). Impassioned and persuasive, this is an essential call for change. (Mar.)