“An absolutely essential perspective on global migration, poverty, and pandemics.” —Amy Stewart, author of Wicked Bugs
Who does the United States take care of, and who does it leave behind? A necessary investigation of infectious disease, poverty, racism, and for-profit healthcare—and the harm caused by decades of neglect.
Growing up in a New Jersey factory town in the 1980s, Daisy Hernández believed that her aunt had become deathly ill from eating an apple. No one in her family, in either the United States or Colombia, spoke of infectious diseases. Even into her thirties, she only knew that her aunt had died of Chagas, a rare and devastating illness that affects the heart and digestive system. But as Hernández dug deeper, she discovered that Chagas—or the kissing bug disease—is more prevalent in the United States than the Zika virus.
After her aunt’s death, Hernández began searching for answers. Crisscrossing the country, she interviewed patients, doctors, epidemiologists, and even veterinarians with the Department of Defense. She learned that in the United States more than three hundred thousand people in the Latinx community have Chagas, and that outside of Latin America, this is the only country with the native insects—the “kissing bugs”—that carry the Chagas parasite.
Through unsparing, gripping, and humane portraits, Hernández chronicles a story vast in scope and urgent in its implications, exposing how poverty, racism, and public policies have conspired to keep this disease hidden. A riveting and nuanced investigation into racial politics and for-profit healthcare in the United States, The Kissing Bug reveals the intimate history of a marginalized disease and connects us to the lives at the center of it all.
About the Author
Daisy Hernández is a former reporter for The New York Times and has been writing about the intersections of race, immigration, class, and sexuality for almost two decades. She edited Colonize This! Young Women of Color on Today’s Feminism and Colorlines, a newsmagazine on race and politics, and she has written for National Geographic, NPR’s All Things Considered, Code Switch, The Atlantic, Slate, and Guernica. She is the author of the award-winning memoir A Cup of Water Under My Bed, and is a professor at Miami University in Ohio.
Hernández writes to the heart of the story with immense tenderness, compassion, and intelligence. A riveting read. — Angie Cruz, author of Dominicana
The Kissing Bug is a deft mix of family archaeology, parasite detective story, and American reckoning. A much-needed addition to the canon.
— Danielle Ofri, MD, PhD, author of When We Do Harm: A Doctor Confronts Medical Error
An engaging, eye-opening read for anyone looking to learn more about the human suffering caused by the collision of a parasite and years of neglect by the United States’ medical system. — Kris Newby, author of Bitten
The engrossing account of a family medical mystery that led to a compassionate investigation of an underattended disease. — Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
Daisy Hernández knows the impact of Chagas disease all too well. Her aunt died from it, and Hernández has since been fascinated by how it spreads and what that reveals about how we treat working-class people. — Bitch Magazine
The engrossing account of a family medical mystery that led to a compassionate investigation of an underattended disease. — Foreword Reviews
With The Kissing Bug, Daisy Hernández takes her place alongside great science writers like Rebecca Skloot and Mary Roach, immersing herself in the deeply personal subject of a deadly insect-borne disease that haunted her own family. It’s a tender and compelling personal saga, an incisive work of investigative journalism, and an absolutely essential perspective on global migration, poverty, and pandemics.