David Kerzer is Provost at Brown and author of The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara. In fluid and engaging prose, he tells the story of a woman who contracted syphillis while working as a wet-nurse at a Bologna orphanage. A true story set in the 19th century, Amalia’s Tale offers up a fascinating analysis of public health and social justice.
I had a chance to talk with Professor Kertzer by phone this week about his research for this book, and his writing more generally. Enjoyed the conversation immensely.
It’s very heartening that a scholar of his caliber makes such a compelling case for making academic research broadly accessible. “…None of this research is of much use to anyone else unless it can somehow be translated into a narrative that makes this history come alive, one that allows those not lucky enough to have pored through old documents in Bologna to feel as if they themselves had entered another world. The challenge is to write a drama that surprises, a story that appeals to the heart as well as as to the mind.” (Amalia’s Tale, 193-94).
If you haven’t picked up one of his books yet, you’re in for a treat!