Virtual Event: Rachel E. Gross and Jason Dearen


Vagina Obscura:
An Anatomical Voyage


Kill Shot:
A Shadow Industry, a Deadly Disease


March 18, 2022
7:00 PM ET


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Harvard Book Store's virtual event series welcomes award-winning science journalists RACHEL E. GROSS and JASON DEAREN for a discussion of their respective books, Vagina Obscura: An Anatomical Voyage and Kill Shot: A Shadow Industry, a Deadly Disease.

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About Vagina Obscura

A camera obscura reflects the world back but dimmer and inverted. Similarly, science has long viewed woman through a warped lens, one focused narrowly on her capacity for reproduction. As a result, there exists a vast knowledge gap when it comes to what we know about half of the bodies on the planet.

That is finally changing. Today, a new generation of researchers is turning its gaze to the organs traditionally bound up in baby-making—the uterus, ovaries, and vagina—and illuminating them as part of a dynamic, resilient, and ever-changing whole. Welcome to Vagina Obscura, an odyssey into a woman’s body from a fresh perspective, ushering in a whole new cast of characters.

In Boston, a pair of biologists are growing artificial ovaries to counter the cascading health effects of menopause. In Melbourne, a urologist remaps the clitoris to fill in crucial gaps in female sexual anatomy. Given unparalleled access to labs and the latest research, journalist Rachel E. Gross takes readers on a scientific journey to the center of a wonderous world where the uterus regrows itself, ovaries pump out fresh eggs, and the clitoris pulses beneath the surface like a shimmering pyramid of nerves.

This paradigm shift is made possible by the growing understanding that sex and gender are not binary; we all share the same universal body plan and origin in the womb. That’s why insights into the vaginal microbiome, ovarian stem cells, and the biology of menstruation don’t mean only a better understanding of female bodies, but a better understanding of male, non-binary, transgender, and intersex bodies—in other words, all bodies.

By turns funny, lyrical, incisive, and shocking, Vagina Obscura is a powerful testament to how the landscape of human knowledge can be rewritten to better serve everyone.

About Kill Shot

Two pharmacists sit in a Boston courtroom accused of murder. The weapon: the fungus Exserohilum rostratum. The death count: 100 and rising. Kill Shot is the story of their hubris and fraud, discovered by a team of medical detectives who raced against the clock to hunt the killers and the fungal meningitis they'd unleashed.

"Bloodthirsty" is how doctors described the fungal microbe that contaminated thousands of drug vials produced by the New England Compounding Center (NECC). Though NECC chief Barry Cadden called his company the "Ferrari of Compounders," it was a slapdash operation of unqualified staff, mold-ridden lab surfaces, and hastily made medications that were injected into approximately 14,000 people. Once inside some of its human hosts, the fungus traveled through the tough tissue around the spine and wormed upward to the "deep brain," our control center for balance, breath, and the vital motor functions of life.

Now, investigative journalist Jason Dearen turns a spotlight on this tragedy—the victims, the heroes, and the perpetrators—and the legal loopholes that allowed it to occur. Kill Shot forces a powerful but unchecked industry out of the shadows.

Praise for Vagina Obscura

"Vagina Obscura is a marvel of a book—lyrical, compassionate, infuriating, insightful, and wise. Rachel E. Gross's exploration of the history, science, and politics of female anatomy should be read by women, men, and everybody seeking to be smarter about who we really are." —Deborah Blum, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author of The Poison Squad

"With the perfect mix of verve and nerve, clarity and composure, Rachel Gross finally gives this organ system its due. I loved every fold and crevice of this book." —Florence Williams, author of Breasts: An Unnatural History

Praise for Kill Shot

"In the tradition of the best medical thrillers, Kill Shot is a riveting and harrowing tale of mysterious and lethal infections. But Jason Dearen's deeply researched book is more than just a good story—in the end, it's also a must-read indictment of our flawed pharmaceutical system and our embarrassingly inadequate regulatory response." —Deborah Blum, Pulitzer-Prize-winning author of The Poison Squad: One Chemist's Single-Minded Crusade for Food Safety at the Turn of The Twentieth Century

"A shocking scientific detective story that's impossible to put down. Jason Dearen's skill at unraveling a deadly tale of greed and corruption is matched only by his storytelling chops." —Seth Mnookin, New York Times bestselling author of The Panic Virus

Jason Dearen
Jason Dearen

Jason Dearen

Jason Dearen is an award-winning investigative journalist for the Associated Press and was a 2018-2019 Knight Science Journalism Fellow at MIT. His work appears regularly in hundreds of newspapers and websites, including the Washington Post, The Guardian, USA Today, and the New York Times. He has been nominated by the Associated Press for the Pulitzer Prize three times. Dearen grew up in California and attended the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism.

Rachel E. Gross
Rachel E. Gross

Rachel E. Gross

Rachel E. Gross is an award-winning science journalist based in Brooklyn, New York. A 2018—19 Knight Science Journalism Fellow and former digital science editor of Smithsonian Magazine, she writes for the BBC Future, the New York Times, and Scientific American.

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" and "2021 Best Virtual Author Series" by Boston magazine.

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