Virtual Event: Perri Klass


A Good Time to Be Born:
How Science and Public Health Gave Children a Future

in conversation with MARIA TATAR


January 22, 2021
7:00 PM


Join our online event (or pre-register) via the link in the event description.


Free - $3 contribution suggested at registration

Harvard Book Store's virtual event series welcomes PERRI KLASS—professor of journalism and pediatrics at New York University and author of the New York Times' weekly column The Checkup—for a discussion of her latest book, A Good Time to Be Born: How Science and Public Health Gave Children a Future. She will be joined in conversation by MARIA TATAR, John L. Loeb Research Professor of Germanic Languages and Literatures and of Folklore and Mythology at Harvard University.

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About A Good Time to Be Born

Only one hundred years ago, in even the world’s wealthiest nations, children died in great numbers—of diarrhea, diphtheria, and measles, of scarlet fever and tuberculosis. Throughout history, culture has been shaped by these deaths; diaries and letters recorded them, and writers such as Louisa May Alcott, W. E. B. Du Bois, and Eugene O’Neill wrote about and mourned them. Not even the powerful and the wealthy could escape: of Abraham and Mary Lincoln’s four children, only one survived to adulthood, and the first billionaire in history, John D. Rockefeller, lost his beloved grandson to scarlet fever. For children of the poor, immigrants, enslaved people and their descendants, the chances of dying were far worse.

The steady beating back of infant and child mortality is one of our greatest human achievements. Interweaving her own experiences as a medical student and doctor, Perri Klass pays tribute to groundbreaking women doctors like Rebecca Lee Crumpler, Mary Putnam Jacobi, and Josephine Baker, and to the nurses, public health advocates, and scientists who brought new approaches and scientific ideas about sanitation and vaccination to families. These scientists, healers, reformers, and parents rewrote the human experience so that—for the first time in human memory—early death is now the exception rather than the rule, bringing about a fundamental transformation in society, culture, and family life.

Praise for A Good Time to Be Born

"Not too long ago, parents lived with the near certainty of losing a child or two; Perri Klass captures the drama of science and society’s triumph over that abysmal reality. As we grapple with new and unimaginable scourges, the lessons in this gripping, personal and beautifully researched chronicle could not be more relevant." —Abraham Verghese, MD, author of Cutting for Stone

"With her broad pediatric knowledge and warm understanding of parental attachments, Perri Klass tells the dramatic story of how medical science transformed childhood in the twentieth century . . . An important contribution to the history of childhood that can provide comfort and insight to all of us." —Paula S. Fass, author of The End of American Childhood

"Klass beautifully demonstrates how the fusion of medical science and public health led to the vaccines, antibiotics, safety measures, and self-help volumes that saved countless young lives while revolutionizing the ways in which we map our children’s future. Elegantly written, filled with memorable characters and events, A Good Time to Be Born is the perfect prescription for the uncertainties of our time." —David Oshinsky, Pulitzer Prize winning author of Polio: A History

Maria Tatar
Maria Tatar

Maria Tatar

Maria Tatar is the author of Enchanted Hunters, the editor and translator of annotated editions of works by Hans Christian Andersen and the Brothers Grimm, and the editor of an annotated edition of J. M. Barrie’s Peter Pan. She is the John L. Loeb Research Professor of Folklore and Mythology and Germanic Languages and Literatures at Harvard University, as well as a Senior Fellow of the Harvard Society of Fellows.

Perri Klass
Perri Klass

Perri Klass

Perri Klass is a professor of journalism and pediatrics at New York University, codirector of NYU Florence, and national medical director of Reach Out and Read. She writes the weekly column The Checkup for the New York Times.


Join our online event (or pre-register) via the link in the event description.
Event Series: Virtual Event Series

Harvard Book Store’s award-winning event series continues online! Named "Best of Boston: 2020 Best Virtual Author Series" by Boston magazine.

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