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Tracy Kidder: Rough Sleepers - April 7 in Chapin Hall

Fri, April 7th, 2023
7:00 pm
- 8:30 pm

Tracy Kidder will be joined on stage for a conversation with Dr. Jim O’Connell, the subject of his latest book, Rough Sleepers. Sara LaLumia, professor of Economics, will moderate the conversation. Free and open to the public. All are welcome.

Kidder’s latest New York Times bestseller Rough Sleepers is the powerful story of an inspiring doctor who made a difference. Rough Sleepers introduces readers to Dr. Jim O’Connell, who helped created a program to care for Boston’s homeless community. Today, Dr. O’Connell and his colleagues lead an organization that includes clinics affiliated with Massachusetts General Hospital and the Boston Medical Center, and a host of teams including a street team who reach rough sleepers by van.  A symptom of the systemic failures that feed American poverty—racism, childhood trauma, violence—homelessness afflicts a broad and diverse population.  Kidder spent time over five years riding with Dr. O’Connell as he navigated the city at night, offering medical care, socks, soup, empathy, and friendship to some of the city’s endangered citizens. In Rough Sleepers we meet some of the people Dr. O’Connell has cared for over the years, including Tony, a protector of others on the streets, and Joann who spent many years on the streets and now lectures each new Harvard Medical School class. Publisher’s Weekly praises Rough Sleepers as “keenly observed and fluidly written, this is a compassionate report from the front lines of one of America’s most intractable social problems.”

Tracy Kidder’s enormously influential book Mountains Beyond Mountains captured two global health crises—tuberculosis and AIDS—through the eyes of a single-minded physician bent on improving the health of some of the poorest people on the planet. The story of Dr. Paul Farmer, a major force in revolutionizing international health, is a gripping and inspiring account of one man’s efforts to establish clinics and hospitals—his compassion for the poor, his inner circle of true believers and, ultimately, his success in helping stem the tide of new HIV and TB infections in Haiti. Farmer is the founder of Zanmi Lasante (Creole for Partners in Health), a non-governmental organization that is the only healthcare provider on the Plateau Central in Haiti.

In his following book, Strength in What Remains, Kidder delivers the humbling story of Deo, a young man whose will to survive and love of knowledge take him from the horrors of genocide in Burundi to Columbia University and then on to medical school—a brilliant testament to the power of second chances and an inspiring account of one immigrant’s remarkable American journey. Dr. Paul Farmer and Partners in Health also play a pivotal role in Deo’s story, as they inspire him to establish his own clinic in Burundi. Strength in What Remains was a finalist for both the 2009 National Book Critics Circle Award and the 2009 Los Angeles Times Book Award. Kidder followed that up with Good Prose, a guide to the craft of nonfiction writing, written with his longtime editor Richard Todd; and A Truck Full Of Money, the story of tech entrepreneur Paul English, who made millions during the rise of the internet while dealing with bipolar disorder.

Over his long career, Kidder’s writing has been prolific and outstanding. The Soul of a New Machine—a book celebrated for its insight into the world of high-tech corporate America—earned him a Pulitzer Prize and a National Book Award in 1982. Other bestselling works include HouseAmong SchoolchildrenOld Friends, and Home Town.

Presented as part of the Cohan Family Forum series on Mental Health and Trauma. Co-sponsored by the  Class of ‘71 Public Affairs Forum, the Lecture Committee, and the Davis Center, the Psychology Department and the Music Department.


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