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Rutgers Summer Reading Recommendations

Dean Perry N. Halkitis, Rutgers School of Public Health, recommends The Pale Rider: the Spanish Flu of 1918 and How it Changed the World by Laura Spinney and Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Ms. Becky Arbatelli. Ms. Spinney’s book is beautiful allegory of the horrific disease that took the lives of 20 to 50 million people worldwide. The work is focused on more than the pathogen itself, but rather examines the story of the pathogen nested within culture and context; how it was shaped by racism and discrimination, culture and national wars, and globalization.

The scope of Ms. Arbatelli’s offering is centered upon the struggle of a teenage boy, Simon, to navigate his sexual identity as a gay man in the 21st century United States. It is a story of coming out and being true to one’s self that highlights the cultural and societal differences that are as evident today as they were 50 years ago and how impactful it can be when an individual’s parents are as loving and supportive as Simon’s.

The overarching sense of disparity and inequality that exists in both authors’ books, it’s sometimes difficult to remember all the progress that has been made, and continues to be made each day. That is why it’s important to look to works like those of Ms. Spinney and Ms. Arbatelli and consider how the social concepts they present work in tandem. Taken together, these two works lead us to understand that public health work must be conducted within – and with attention to – context. Both works demonstrate the importance of “keeping the public in public health.”