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Another Giveaway: What Does Tuberculosis Have to Do With The Ballad of Jessie Pearl? Ask Shannon Hitchcock.

Posted by lindamartinandersen on March 23, 2013

“Another Giveaway:  What Does Tuberculosis Have to Do With The Ballad of Jessie Pearl?  Ask Shannon Hitchcock.” 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 Tuberculosis Day–March 24, 2013. 

Meet Shannon Hitchcock, a children’s author who writes about tuberculosis in her debut novel The Ballad of Jessie Pearl.


Visit Shannon Hitchcock’s website at: http://www.shannonhitchcock.com/

Join me in providing a warm welcome for Shannon Hitchcock.


World Tuberculosis Day and THE BALLAD OF JESSIE PEARL 

World Tuberculosis Day is March 24th and to commemorate that day, I’m answering questions about the disease and my novel, THE BALLAD OF JESSIE PEARL.  I’m also offering a giveaway:  An Advanced Readers Copy (ARC) of my novel (paperback).

Here’s a brief synopsis of THE BALLAD OF JESSIE PEARL: It’s 1922, and Jessie has big plans for her future, but that’s before tuberculosis strikes. Though she has no talent for cooking, cleaning, or nursing, Jessie puts her dreams on hold to help her family. She falls in love for the first time ever, and suddenly what she wants is not so simple anymore.  You can get a real flavor for the novel by watching the book trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rRXyeIJ4js8

Why did you write a novel about tuberculosis? I didn’t exactly choose tuberculosis, it chose me, or more accurately it chose my family. In 1922, one of my grandmother’s sisters died from tuberculosis. Crawley was twenty years old. She left behind a ten-month-old baby and a letter planning her own funeral. That bit of family history captured my imagination and inspired my book.

Where does your novel take place? In my hometown of East Bend, North Carolina. Speaking of which, North Carolina has an interesting history with TB sufferers. The state’s fresh mountain air was considered optimal for treating lung disease. Asheville attracted so many sufferers that a pamphlet published in 1915 by the U.S. Public Health Service declared North Carolina to have the largest number of tuberculosis patients in the world.

What exactly is tuberculosis? Tuberculosis is an infectious disease caused by a bacterium called mycobacterium tuberculosis. It’s spread through the air when infected people cough and spit. A great TB overview can be found at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/tb/topic/basics/default.htm

What are the symptoms of the disease? Severe weight loss, a ghostly pale complexion, a hacking cough, blood-tinged phlegm, joint pain, diarrhea, and swollen legs.

Is there a vaccine to prevent tuberculosis? Yes, it’s called Bacille Calmette-Guerin, or BCG. However the vaccine is not widely used in the United States and it doesn’t prevent all types of TB. That’s why doctors ask sick patients if they’ve been exposed to tuberculosis or traveled to parts of the world where TB is prevalent.

How do doctors test for TB? Most often doctors use a TB skin test. With a small needle they inject a testing material called tuberculin under the skin. Two to three days later, they check to see if there is a reaction to the injection. Other tests include a blood test, a chest x-ray, and collecting a sample of sputum or phlegm that is coughed up from the lungs.

Is there a cure for tuberculosis? Yes, the first drug used to treat TB was streptomycin, but doctors soon discovered that it’s more effective to treat the disease with multiple drugs. The current four-drug regimen includes isoniazid, rifampin, pyrazinamide, and ethambutal or streptomycin. You can learn more about the treatment here: http://www.umdnj.edu/ntbcweb/tbhistory.htm.

If there is a cure, why did your family suffer from tuberculosis? Medicine to treat the disease was not readily available until after the end of World War II. During the 1920’s, when my book is set, infected people had two options: rest at home and be cared for by family members, or go away for treatment in a sanatorium.

What is a sanatorium? A sanatorium is a special hospital to isolate people infected with tuberculosis. By 1925, there were more than five hundred sanatoriums with almost seven hundred thousand beds in the United States alone. In a sanatorium, patients were treated with good food, plenty of rest, and fresh air. Many even slept outside on covered porches.

Do we still have sanatoriums? Not in the United States. The last freestanding sanatorium, located in Lantana, Florida, was closed in 2012. You can read more about the hospital here: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/13/health/13tuberculosis.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

Is tuberculosis still a problem today? Yes! About one-and-a-half million people still die from tuberculosis each year. It remains an epidemic in much of the world, mainly in poorer countries. Another sobering fact is the development of multi-drug resistant strains of TB.

Where can I learn more about tuberculosis? One of my favorite non-fiction books about the disease is INVINCIBLE MICROBE: TUBERCULOSIS AND THE NEVER-ENDING SEARCH FOR A CURE by Jim Murphy and Alison Blank. (Clarion, 2012)

The School Library Journal says of the book, “Starting with the dramatic cover photo of a row of girls lying in their hospital beds, Murphy and Blank unwind the tangled history of tuberculosis, a disease that continues to kill millions every year…Readers will be surprised to learn that kings believed that a single touch of their hand would cure the peasants and that one of the more radical treatments for TB included removing multiple ribs from a patient’s chest. At times gruesome and somewhat somnolent when describing the peaceful sanatoriums, the book clearly details all the many unsuccessful attempts to cure this infectious disease.”

Another interesting resource is the diary of Fanny W. Midgett, who recorded her stay at Cragmont Sanatorium in North Carolina. http://www.ncgenweb.us/dare/miscellany/midgettfanniediary.html

What are you writing about now? Yet another novel. CAROLINA GIRLS is set in 1969 and also based on a family story. It’s about an accident, but touches on integration of the public school system and the first moonwalk.

Shannon Hitchcock has generously offered a giveaway–an Advanced Readers Copy (ARC) of The Ballad of Jessie Pearl to one lucky person.  Leave a comment or question with your email address (to contact winner) by March 28, 2013 and you’re entered.  The winner will be announced March 29, 2013.

Thanks for visiting “A Writer’s Playground.”  Please come again soon and bring a friend.

Copyright © 2013 Linda Martin Andersen

28 Responses to “Another Giveaway: What Does Tuberculosis Have to Do With The Ballad of Jessie Pearl? Ask Shannon Hitchcock.”

  1. Lucky me – I have a copy of this book and enjoyed it a lot! So don’t enter me in the contest. But I really enjoyed the blog and learning more about TB. Shannon’s research shines through. Thanks Linda for hosting her!

  2. Dear Linda,
    Thanks for interviewing Shannon. Her book sounds interesting. I had an aunt who died with tuberculosis in a sanatorium in Wilson, North Carolina around 1945. My cousin came to live with us for awhile. It is great that Shannon did all the research to write The Ballad of Jessie Pearl. It would be an honor to win an ARC copy.

    Linda and Shannon, celebrate you and your love of people,
    Never Give Up
    Joan Y. Edwards

  3. Mary Stott said

    In 1964, I entered first grade and my mother was hospitalized with TB. She spent several months away from her family. My father, myself, my younger s sister and my baby sister had to carry on without her. I would love to read this book! BTW, this was in San Antonio, Texas and other family members died from TB, My mother was young, strong and lucky to receive medical care.

    • Mary,
      Thanks for sharing your story. How difficult to have a mom in the hospital with TB when you were so young. I’m glad she survived.

      • Mary, That’s a fascinating story. One of the books I used in my research is called LIVING IN THE SHADOW OF DEATH – TUBERCULOSIS AND THE SOCIAL EXPERIENCE OF ILLNESS IN AMERICAN HISTORY. This book in particular talked about how young women with families coped with the disease and how sometimes symptoms could be masked during a pregnancy only to return with a vengeance once a woman gave birth.

  4. I read Shannon’s book in kindle form (& loved it), but would like to win an arc to put on my shelf & share with the young readers in my life. My husband’s mother lost her father & 2 brothers to TB, so she & her husband & their children moved to New Mexico, another of those places where the climate was thought to prevent the disease. So that’s where my husband was born.

    • Kathy,
      So glad to have you comment about how much you enjoyed Shannon’s book. Learning how TB affected your family was sad but it sounds like it indirectly helped you meet your husband. Something good came from the tragedies.

      • Kathy, so glad you enjoyed my book. This is not an exact quote, but I did read that if every person in America charted their family history, they would undoubtedly find a family member who suffered from tuberculosis. Good luck with the drawing!

  5. I have also made a Pinterest board depicting some of the research material I used in writing The Ballad of Jessie Pearl. You can view it here: http://pinterest.com/swhitchcock/the-ballad-of-jessie-pearl-research-materials/

  6. Hi Linda and Shannon,
    I enjoyed this post, ladies. I remember one of my great aunts suffered from TB and I love that you said the story found you. And Linda, your title on this post made me want to read the post that much more. And you know, I always enjoy reading your posts. I was actually thinking earlier, I wonder what day Linda will highlight this week. 🙂

  7. No need to enter me in your giveaway contest, just another vote for a great book. Shared this on FB too.

  8. Susan Williams said

    Linda, thanks for hosting Shannon. I was not home on the 24th, but have seen TB from “the other side.” As a medical technologist at the VA in Fayetteville, NC, my co-workers and I isolated (grew) TB from patient specimens (mostly sputum). These isolates were sent to the NC state lab for confirmation and patient follow-up for isolation, treatment, and tracking of patient contacts. TB still is alive and well in our communities, though we should not be overly fearful of it, and I am glad that books like Shannon’s make people aware of it.

    • Hi Susan,
      I’ve seen bottles marked sputum in the hospital. I always wondered what tests might be run on them. Thanks for telling me that’s how TB is identified. You are full of interesting heath-information. You’re also a good friend and kind to follow my blog.

      • Susan Williams said

        Sputum specimens are also more commonly used to identify pneumonia or other infections of the lungs.

      • Thanks for sharing even more information. You keep conversations alive–like some cultures. (Bad one, I know).

      • Susan, One of the first questions I ask school kids is, “How many of you have been vaccinated against TB?” Nearly every hand shoots up. Then I tell them that most likely none of them have been. Did you ever hear of a case where a doctor, nurse, or other health care professional became infected?

  9. Susan Williams said

    Shannon, I do not know of any health care professionals that have become infected. I suspect that somewhere, someone has. I have seen doctors stick their head into a TB patient’s room without a mask. However, it is my understanding that unless you have a compromised immune system or other factors coming into play, you have to have a good deal of contact with a patient to catch TB. I always wore a gown, mask, and gloves before drawing blood from a TB patient. My skin test was still negative when I retired from the VA after 23 years.

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