Weaving what he calls the double helix of health and fear, Kraut fashions a readable, thoroughly documented, and sober history of an often highly emotional subject--U.S. fears, both reasonable and groundless, that waves of immigration are accompanied by invasive disease and death. The Irish, Chinese, eastern Europeans (many of them Jews), and Italians all carried the stigma of pestilence bearers, and more recent immigrants have fared no better--witness the front-page news-making associations drawn between the simultaneous U.S. advents of AIDS, Haitians, and southeast Asians. In considering the recurring phenomenon of the immigrant-disease connection, Kraut also examines, among other matters, the historic New York Harbor intake centers of Castle Garden and Ellis Island, various immigration laws, and the relationships between civil liberties and public health needs. He subjects rumors--for example, that the Irish brought cholera, and the Italians polio--to the clarifying light of statistical records, and his accounting of the handling of bubonic plague in San Francisco is exceptionally well done.
Draws on a wide variety of sources to synthesize US immigration history and the history of medicine, showing how the equation of disease with outsiders, and illness with genetic inferiority, has affected not only immigration policy and health care, but the workplace and schools as well. Draws on a wide variety of sources, including the written work of patients as well as government and insurance documents. This history of prejudice is especially relevant today in connection with AIDS policies. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)