Weathering: The Extraordinary Stress of Ordinary Life in an Unjust Society
Fusing science and social justice, renowned public health researcher Dr. Arline T. Geronimus offers an urgent, "monumental" book (Ibram X. Kendi, author of Stamped from the Beginning) exploring the ways in which systemic injustice erodes the health of marginalized people.
America has woken up to what many of its citizens have known for centuries and to what public health statistics have evidenced for decades: systemic injustice takes a physical, too often deadly, toll on Black, brown, working class and poor communities, and any group who experiences systemic cultural oppression or economic exploitation. Marginalized Americans are disproportionately more likely to suffer from chronic diseases and to die at much younger ages than their middle- and upper-class white counterparts. Black mothers die during childbirth at a rate three times higher than white mothers. White kids in high-poverty Appalachian regions have a healthy life expectancy of 50 years old, while the vast majority of US youth can expect to both survive and be able-bodied at 50, with decades of healthy life expectancy ahead of them. In the face of such clear inequity, we must ask ourselves why this is, and what we can we do.
Dr. Arline T. Geronimus coined the term “weathering” to describe the effects of systemic oppression—including racism and classism—on the body. In Weathering, based on more than 30 years of research, she argues that health and aging have more to do with how society treats us than how well we take care of ourselves. She explains what happens to human bodies as they attempt to withstand and overcome the challenges and insults that society leverages at them, and details how this process ravages their health. And she proposes solutions.
Until now, there has been little discussion about the insidious effects of social injustice on the body. Weathering shifts the paradigm, shining a light on the topic and offering a roadmap for hope.
Praise for Weathering: The Extraordinary Stress of Ordinary Life in an Unjust Society
“One of the most significant public health research discoveries of the last few decades is this: when it comes to health and aging, how society treats us has more of an impact than how we take care of ourselves. In this monumental book, Arline T. Geronimus meticulously demonstrates that systemic injustice isn’t just oppressive—it’s toxic on the body; it’s deadly.”—Ibram X. Kendi, National Book Award-winning author of Stamped from the Beginning
“Impassioned and persuasive, this is an essential call for change.”—Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
“Superbly insightful. If this unique volume did nothing else, I would recommend Weathering as the book on healthcare disparities. But it also distills and delivers its scholarship and insight in engaging narratives, including compelling personal histories so that you will glean your education in racial health disparities—and how to end them—quite painlessly. In fact, reading Weathering, with its clear-eyed mixture of reality and hope, is a delight.”—Harriet A. Washington, author of A Terrible Thing to Waste and Medical Apartheid
“Arline Geronimus brings together a lifetime of research, scholarship, and experience to explain how continually battling back oppression hurts the human body. Her book offers an eloquent, comprehensive and compassionate framework for understanding the physiological effects of societal harm and a path to healing.”—Linda Villarosa, author of Under the Skin
“A compelling contribution to the literature on the important issue of health care inequity.”—Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review
“Arline T. Geronimus, Ph.D., draws on her research to shine a light on what it means to age as a Black person in the United States.”—Kenrya Rankin, ESSENSE
"Crisp, backed with evidence and rather heroic in spirit.”—Farrah Jarral, The Gaurdian
“As I learn more about the complexity of chronic diseases, and the reasons black people who grew up like I did endure them more often than others, it provides me a peace of mind I didn't know was possible. This book brings clarity where I've long had confusion. No doubt, it will influence the broader discussion about health and race in this country on a macro and policy-level. But more than that, it will be invaluable to folks who've faced anything like I did since I was a child."—Issac J. Bailey, author of Why Didn’t We Riot?
“In trying to understand the causes of group disparities in health outcomes, analysts have focused on features of the disadvantaged groups themselves—their genes, culture, income level, etc.—at the expense of environmental factors. Weathering corrects this bias. Better than any writing I’ve seen, it shows how the environments of the disenfranchised have a weathering impact on their health and longevity. Well-written and accessible, it is a powerful book; indispensable to developing policies capable of reducing these disparities. And more generally, it is a must read by anyone interested in the nature of identity in American life. In short, it deserves the very broadest of readerships!”—Claude M. Steele, author of Whistling Vivaldi
“The power of Geronimus’s project remains the attempt to provide a conceptual framework for patterns that medical institutions, in their convenient recourse to individual failings, have yet to fully recognize.”—Lauren Michele Jackson, The New Yorker