Under the Skin

In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, this week's review unpacks racial disparities in healthcare and the impact of racism on the well-being of Black Americans

Under the Skin: The Hidden Toll of Racism on American Lives and on the Health of Our Nation

Villarosa, Linda. Doubleday, 2022
288p bibl index, 9780385544887 $30.00, 9780385544894

Under the Skin: The Hidden Toll of Racism on American Lives and on the Health of Our Nation book cover. Image of a black woman covered in colorful paint against a light blue background. Layered on top of the image is the title in white lettering.

New York Times journalist Villarosa (a contributor to The 1619 Project) weaves lessons in history and public policy through a series of personal narratives, adding a degree of humanity to the statistics and academic terminology that often weigh down public discourse about racism. Villarosa effectively deploys her journalistic acumen to invite readers to engage with a heavy topic. This text’s relaxed written style sets it apart from purely academic writing but does not compromise on rigor. Reading this book feels like being in conversation with the author, and the sense of intimate dialog is further cemented by Villarosa’s use of reflexivity in examining the impacts of racism on the health of her own family. This approach makes the book accessible and potentially engaging for a wide variety of readers, reflecting a core tenet of journalistic ethics. In the course of eight strong chapters, Villarosa examines multiple facets of American racism—from harmful myths and stereotypes about the biology of Black people to the impact of geography on access to quality health care. The book ends with “Putting the Care Back in Health Care,” which reviews essential work being done by passionate individuals to minimize the impacts of racism and improve health care for all.

Summing Up: Highly recommended. All readers.
Reviewer: A. T. Moody, independent scholar
Interdisciplinary Subjects: African and African American Studies, Women’s & Gender Studies, Racial Justice
Subject: Science & Technology – Health Sciences
Choice Issue: March 2023

Enjoy this week’s review? Check out more reviews of related titles: