In Conversation: MBF/de Groot Prize: The Care of Strangers

Ellen Michaeson, 2019 winner of the MBF/de Groot Prize for the Novella, has crafted a moving story about vulnerability and friendship in The Care of Strangers. Described by Publishers Weekly […]


In Conversation: MBF/de Groot Prize: The Care of Strangers

Authors:Ellen Michaelson, Daniela Lamas


Ellen Michaeson, 2019 winner of the MBF/de Groot Prize for the Novella, has crafted a moving story about vulnerability and friendship in The Care of Strangers. Described by Publishers Weekly as an “affecting glimpse into the evolution of friendship between women facing difficult odds,” Michaelson’s protagonists learn that letting yourself care for another person can be the best way to find yourself. Fellow physician-writer Daniela Lamas, author of You Can Stop Humming Now: A Doctor’s Stories of Life, Death, and in Between, guides Michaelson’s discussion of those themes.

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Ellen Michaelson

Ellen Michaelson is a physician in Portland, Oregon, and an MFA graduate from Pacific University. Her work has appeared in Creative Nonfiction, Portland Monthly, Women in Solitude (SUNY Press), and Literature in Medicine. Winner of the 2019 Miami Book Fair/de Groot Prize The Care of Strangers (Melville House), Ellen Michaelson’s debut novel, is a moving story about friendship set in a hospital, where a young woman learns to take charge of her life by taking care of others. Sima, an orderly in a gritty Brooklyn public hospital, is an immigrant who escaped vicious anti-Semitism in Poland. She spends her shifts transporting patients, observing the doctors and residents and quietly nurturing dreams of becoming a doctor herself by going to night school. One credit short of graduating, she finds herself faltering in the face of pressure from her mother to aim lower and settle for the life she has. Everything changes when Sima encounters Mindy Kahn, an intern doctor struggling through her residency. As fellow outsiders, they bond and Sima learns the power of truly letting yourself care for another person. Charles Baxter, author of The Feast of Love noted how “the work of medicine—of saving lives—is closely related to the work of saving oneself, of staying intact under the pressure of work and inherited prejudices.”

Daniela Lamas

Daniela Lamas is a pulmonary and critical care doctor at the Brigham & Women’s Hospital and faculty at Harvard Medical School. Following graduation from Harvard College, she went on to earn her MD at Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons, where she also completed internship and residency. She then returned to Boston for her subspecialty fellowship. She has worked as a medical reporter at the Miami Herald and is frequently published in the New York Times. This is her first book. Modern medicine is a world that sparkles with cutting-edge technology and trailblazing research. Medical stories seemingly often begin with sirens and flashing lights and culminate in survival or death. But these are only the most visible narratives. As a critical care doctor treating people at their sickest, Daniela Lamas is fascinated by a different story: what comes after for those whose lives are extended by days, months, or years as a result of our treatments and technologies? In You Can Stop Humming Now: A Doctor’s Stories of Life, Death, and in Between (Little, Brown Spark), Lamas explores the complex answers to this question through intimate accounts of patients and their families. A grandfather whose failing heart has been replaced by a battery-operated pump; a salesman who found himself a kidney donor on social media; a college student who survived a near fatal overdose and returned home, alive but not the same – these narratives offer a detailed picture of the fragile border between sickness and health. USA Today called it “Dazzling… [Lamas] effortlessly captures the rhythm and mayhem of modern medicine… Warmth and humanity radiate from every page […] The patients in this book have something important to say, and so does the author. We should all be listening.”

 

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