A History of the Present Illness takes readers into overlooked lives in the neighborhoods, hospitals, and nursing homes of San Francisco, offering a deeply humane and incisive portrait of health and illness in American today. An elderly Chinese immigrant sacrifices his demented wife's well-being to his son's authority. A busy Latina physician's eldest daughter's need for more attention has disastrous consequences. A young veteran's injuries become a metaphor for the rest of his life. A gay doctor learns very different lessons about family from his life and his work, and a psychiatrist who advocates for the underserved may herself be crazy. Together, these honest and compassionate stories introduce a striking new literary voice and provide a view of what it means to be a doctor and a patient unlike anything we've read before.
In the tradition of Oliver Sacks and Abraham Verghese, Aronson's writing is based on personal experience and addresses topics of current social relevance. Masterfully told, A History of the Present Illness explores the role of stories in medicine and creates a world pulsating with life, speaking truths about what makes us human.
About the Author
Louise Aronson has an MFA from Warren Wilson College and an MD from Harvard. She has received the Sonora Review prize, the New Millennium short fiction award, and three Pushcart nominations. Her fiction has appeared in Bellevue Literary Review and the Literary Review, among other publications. She is an associate professor of medicine at UCSF, where she cares for older patients and directs the Northern California Geriatrics Education Center and UCSF Medical Humanities. She lives in San Francisco.
Praise for A History of the Present Illness…
“Dr. Aronson writes lovely, nuanced description.” —New York Times
"A History of the Present Illness provides an intimate look into how the aging process affects real lives and a non-didactic take on the importance of health care." —San Francisco Chronicle
"The ethical dilemmas that abound in medicine are prominent but never swamp the stories: these are tales about people, as insightfulas Lorrie Moore or Alice Munro." —The Independent (UK)
“Aronson’s examination of medical culture in stories, of the brutality and tenderness at home and hospital, is a gem. [Her] voice is tender and one from which I hope we’ll hear more histories in the future.” —Washington Independent Review of Books
"Aronson effectively illustrates just how jumbled life can be. Hope is limping barely one step ahead of sadness. Human devotion and division, responsibility to self and others are only a smidgen of the subject matter examined by talented and knowledgeable Aronson." —Booklist
"In A History of the Present Illness Louise Aronson invites us to bear witness as people—with very little fanfare, but with a profound sense of truth—to come to terms with what it really means to be a flawed, sick human being in a flawed, sick world. These stories are about medicine exactly in the way that medicine is about life: here hospitals contain whole worlds, physicians contain their patients, and the emotional and physical gestures of the urge to heal contain the whole fruitful and fruitless work of human connection.” —Chris Adrian
"A History of the Present Illness is a collection of stories about doctors and their patients, and about the chronic and presenting situations that bring them to crisis. Eudora Welty described the work of another physician/story writer by saying that 'Chekhov's candor was exploratory and painstaking—he might have used it as the doctor in him would know how, treating the need for truth between human beings as an emergency,' words that seem to me to also apply here. Aronson's quest, too, is for that truth." —Antonya Nelson
“Some of the most startling and memorable stories I’ve ever read. A History of the Present Illness is a fascinating study of our fragile human condition, both physical and emotional. Here is a writer—and a doctor—whose empathy for her people, her characters, springs forth on every page.” —Peter Orner
"In A History of the Present Illness, Louise Aronson reveals her remarkable range of voice, from bedwetting Cambodian girl to elderly Jewish man; from paralyzed Bad Boy to pampered ex-surgeon who drinks to forget her depression. If you've ever wondered what goes on behind the closed doors of the sick and the wounded—not on television or in movies but really—then this is the book for you. Compassionate and even anguished, though quietly, Dr. Aronson paints a dark, Rembrandtian portrait, where the faces are solemn, and the clothes and circumstances precisely fit to man, woman, and child. Fiction it may be, but it has the palette and the ring of truth." —Victoria Sweet, author of God’s Hotel