Out of the Shadow of Leprosy:
The Carville Letters and Stories of the Landry Family
University Press of Mississippi
Few people these days give much thought to leprosy. True, it’s a rare disease – only 150-250 documented new cases in the U.S. each year. It’s very difficult to contract Hanson’s Disease (HD), as it is now called. Ninety-five percent of the world’s population has a natural immunity to it and HD has been curable with simple antibiotics since the early 1940s. But as recently as the mid-20th century, HD was a feared and reviled disease. Victims were shunned and banned from society.
In 1924, at the age of 32, Claire Manes’s grandfather, Edmond Landry, voluntarily checked himself into U.S. Marine Hospital Number 66, home of the national leprosarium located in Carville, Louisiana. Through a collection of dozens of letters written by Landry to his wife and family members from his “incarceration” at Carville, Manes shares the trauma and devastation of HD inflicted upon victims and their families and shows us the grandfather she never knew. As a young child, Manes longed to learn something, anything, about her grandfather, who died at Carville in 1932. But talk of Landry was forbidden in her family. Leprosy and the fact that the disease had infected not only Edmond but four of his siblings was a taboo subject. The silence and secrecy haunted Manes. Years later, she and her brothers discovered their grandfather’s letters. Through Landry’s own written words, Manes discovered the truth about her exiled grandfather. She felt compelled to share his story in this book, Out of the Shadow of Leprosy: The Carville Letters and Stories of the Landry Family.
Highly recommended for history, medical, or memoir buffs.