“Who Would Write About Leprosy? Joyce Moyer Hostetter, That’s Who” by Linda Martin Andersen
“A Writer’s Playground”–A place to find wordplay, writing, and monthly calendar activities for kids and those young at heart.
It’s World Leprosy Week–January 27–Feb. 2.
You have the opportunity to meet an author who says,
|“I write historical novels for young people. Sadly, I am drawn to tragic themes. However, my books do contain humor, and each are populated with spunky characters who tell their stories in a lively voice!”|
Today, Joyce Hostetter will provide a question and answer session about leprosy and her book, Healing Water: A Hawaiian Story.
Join me in providing a warm welcome for Joyce Moyer Hostetter
Leprosy Q & A: A little Conversation With Myself
Why did you write about leprosy?
Yeah, really. Because is there a more depressing topic? And my book, HEALING WATER starts on a real downer, with my character, 12 year old Pia, being deported to the Kalaupapa leprosy settlement in Hawaii.
The Book Trailer will give you a glimpse into Pia’s experience.
I wrote this story after discovering that Father Damien, a Catholic priest, chose to live among Hawaii’s leprosy patients. He found terrible living conditions and much despair but he loved the people and petitioned the government to meet their needs. Because of Damien, the leprosy settlement became a hopeful community. And trust me, my book gets more hopeful too!
So, before we go any further, what exactly is leprosy?
The World Health Organization offers some terrific info on the disease. IF you take a close look at their site you’ll discover that.
- Leprosy is caused by a bacterium. Untreated, it damages skin and nerves and can lead to blindness and disfigurement. There are several types of leprosy.
- Leprosy is not nearly as contagious as we once imagined.
- Leprosy is spread through droplets from the mouth and nose of an infected person.
- At the beginning of 2012 there were 182,000 people affected by leprosy – mostly in parts of Asia and Africa.
Is there a cure for leprosy?
Not at the time of my story (mid 1800s). But, today, yes! There are several drug combinations for several different types of leprosy. One type requires twelve monthly doses. The other involves six monthly doses.
Why are people so afraid of leprosy?
- Untreated, leprosy can lead to disfigurement.
- In the past people with leprosy were nearly always separated from their homes and family. That’s something to fear!
- The Old Testament (Leviticus 13) called leprosy a plague. People with leprosy were considered unclean. In the Bible, leprosy typically referred to a variety of skin conditions – not necessarily leprosy as we know it today. But the stigma followed leprosy down through the centuries. The term “leper” is offensive; so many people now prefer to call leprosy Hansen’s Disease.
Why Hansen’s Disease?
In 1873 Gerhard Hansen of Norway, discovered the bacteria that causes leprosy.
Where do you go to research a story about leprosy?
How about Hawaii? Actually I went to Hawaii to research life in Hawaii and also to visit the former leprosy settlement where my story takes place. Doing so, gave me a feel for the landscape where my character lived. However, I could only visit the leprosy settlement through a brief guided tour because former patients still live there and the state protects their privacy. (That’s a good thing, of course.)
So how did you research leprosy itself?
I consulted the World Health Organization and leprosy related websites. But I especially wanted to learn the kinds of things my character would have believed about leprosy in the mid- 1800s. I read memoirs by people who visited or lived in the Hawaiian leprosy settlement. I also interviewed three doctors who worked with leprosy patients in Africa and Trinidad. They read my manuscript for accuracy and helped me get it right.
A favorite resource was an old book – The Path of the Destroyer: A History of Leprosy in the Hawaiian Islands and Thirty Years Research Into The Means By Which It Has Been Spread. You’ve got to love a descriptive title! The author, Dr. A.A. Mouritz, worked with Father Damien.
Where can I learn more about Hawaii’s people and their history with leprosy?
Try these books.
Kalaupapa: A Collective Memory – by Anwei Law
My Name is Makia: A Memoir of Kalaupapa By Makia Malo
Molokai – by Alan Brennert – a novel set in the Kalaupapa leprosy settlement
Didn’t you write about some other disease too? What’s up with you and diseases?
Ah, such a good question. I think tragedy calls to me. My middle grade novel BLUE is about a girl whose family is affected by polio. The sequel, COMFORT deals with the after-effects of polio and also post-war trauma.
So what disease are you writing about now?
Surprise – no diseases involved. My work-in-progress is about fourteen year-old Amber whose mom has died. Amber regrets how she treated her mother and wants to undo the conflict in their relationship. She goes on a search through some family keepsakes to recover her mother’s story. Some pretty amazing stuff happened in her mother’s life which leads Amber to discover her grandfather’s story and on back through several more generations. Each generation is a separate fully plotted story and they’re all threaded together by Amber’s emotional journey.
Thanks Linda for hosting this Q & A. I’m impressed you are commemorating Leprosy Week. Would you believe, I didn’t even know there was such a thing until you told me?
Guess what? Joyce has agreed to give away a copy of Healing Water. To enter, please leave a comment here before midnight February 2, 2013. The winner will be announced on February 3, 2013. Thank you for offering to do this, Joyce. Please leave your email address on the post so I can contact the winner. Thank you.
If you’d like to learn about the leprosy hospital in Carville, Louisiana that has now become a museum, check out Joyce Hostetter’s latest blog post at http://joycemoyerhostetter.blogspot.com/2013/01/in-keeping-with-world-leprosy-week-id.html
Copyright © 2013 Linda Martin Andersen