Leprosy - Secrets
Book Review 
Kevin McGowan Reflects on Marcia Gaudet’s Book

In her book Carville: Remembering Leprosy in America (2004), Marcia Gaudet openly discusses a topic many Americans would rather keep quiet and hidden. Growing up, my only exposure to leprosy (clinically known as Hansen’s disease) was through the movies Ben-Hur and Papillion. I didn’t know that Americans got Hansen’s disease or that a facility for those afflicted with Hansen’s disease existed from 1896 to 1999 in Carville, Louisiana (near Baton Rouge).

That’s part of the beauty of Gaudet’s book.  Based on years of research and personal interviews from residents of Carville, the pages have something for everyone. For example, scientific minds will learn that 95% of the US general population is immune to Hansen’s disease and that armadillos may be the source of the bacterium that causes Hansen’s disease. Legal types will come to know that those diagnosed with “leprosy” were escorted by police to Carville and that residents of Carville were denied the right to vote until 1946. Journalists will see that the residents of Carville had a newspaper published internationally. Artists can be assured that Carville held its own Mardi Gras and that the residents made their own costumes and floats. Carville had a softball team, a golf team, and—well, the stories of those who lived and died there are both heartbreaking and affirming.
Letters and Stories Chronicle the Landry Family

My book Out of the Shadow of Leprosy: the Carville Letters and Stories of the Landry Family by Claire Manes has been released by University Press of Mississippi. It is the culmination of my life long search for my grandfather who died in the leprosy hospital at Carville in 1932, thirteen years before I was born.  Our family silence about him slowed my search but never dimmed my curiosity.  After my family discovered letters from him, I was able to tell his story.  This book is the result, a testament, I hope to a man I never knew but greatly admire.

Anwei Law the International Coordinator of IDEA, the largest international human rights advocacy organization by and for people who have personally faced the challenges of leprosy, also known as Hansen’s disease, says of the book: “Throughout the world, one of the greatest challenges facing the Hansen’s disease/leprosy community is ensuring that individuals whose lives have been affected by this disease are afforded their rightful place in the history of their families, their countries and the world. By sharing the letters that her family kept from their relatives who had been taken from them together with powerful family photographs, Claire Manes provides us with an important, very personal perspective on the social response to those who had leprosy in the days when people were forcibly relocated to places like Carville. Even more important, she shows how the bonds of family ultimately prove stronger than any disease or society’s reaction to it.
Out of the Shadow of Leprosy is available from the University Press at 1 800 737 7788, through Amazon.com and from bookstore including Octavia Bookstore in New Orleans, La., Books along the Teche in New Iberia, La, and Barnes and Noble in store and online.

About the cover picture: My grandfather, Edmond Landry, my grandmother, Claire Landry, and my mother, Leonide “Teenie” Landry (Manes) are pictured at their New Iberia home in the summer of 1919 before leprosy had entered their lives.
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