Format Hardcover
Publication Date 01/04/16
ISBN 9781605989389
Trim Size / Pages 9.3 x 6.4 in / 336

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Death's Summer Coat

What the History of Death and Dying Teaches Us About Life and Living

Brandy Schillace

In the tradition of Being Mortal, Brandy Schillace looks at what we can learn from the incredibly diverse ways in which humans have dealt with mortality in different times and places

Death is something we all confront—it touches our families, our homes, our hearts. And yet we have grown used to denying its existence, treating it as an enemy to be beaten back with medical advances. We are living at a unique point in human history. People are living longer than ever, yet the longer we live, the more taboo and alien our mortality becomes. Yet we, and our loved ones, still remain mortal. People today still struggle with this fact, as we have done throughout our entire history. What led us to this point? What drove us to sanitize death and make it foreign and unfamiliar? Schillace shows how talking about death, and the rituals associated with it, can help provide answers. It also brings us closer together—conversation and community are just as important for living as for dying. Some of the stories are strikingly unfamiliar; others are far more familiar than you might suppose. But all reveal much about the present—and about ourselves.

Dr. Brandy Schillace writes about culture, the history of medicine, and the intersections of medicine and literature. She is the Managing Editor of the international health journal Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry and teaches at Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio.  Brandy has lectured at the New York Academy of Medicine and writes for The Huffington Post and InsideHigherEd, among other publications.

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Endorsements & Reviews

“An informed but not overly academic pop culture look at death and dying in cultures around the world.” Cleveland.com
“Schillace’s explorations are extensive and interdisciplinary, drawing on research in the sciences but also valuing the many expressions of death in the arts. With her personable voice, she is able to breathe compassion into what might otherwise be a depressing topic. Endlessly fascinating. This vibrant window to other lives also creates a deeper understanding of one’s own” Publishers Weekly
“Schillace examines rituals of bereavement across cultures and across time. She points toward the confusion that has emerged in a technological age when brain death, heart death and other definitions becloud our understanding of expiry itself. We don't know what death means or even what it is.” Andrew Solomon The New York Times Book Review
“At once scholarly but also infused with personal narrative, Death’s Summer Coat has something to offer everyone.” Paul Koudounaris, author of HEAVENLY BODIES and THE EMPIRE OF DEATH
“Schillace writers glowingly of a growing movement to counter the death-denying attitude of Western society. Wide-ranging and surprisingly easy reading.” Kirkus Reviews
“The book opens by surveying a wide swath of mourning customs from around the world, practices that Schillace holds up, usually to their advantage, against the customary funeral-home funeral of the modern West. As death became medical, it became something to be fought or fixed, and in these parallel shifts—from the religious to the medical, and from the communal to the private—Schillace perceives the forces behind our misaligned contemporary attitudes about mortality.” The New Yorker
“A lively, panoramic view of our approach to death and dying that asks essential questions, and offers important insights, into the inevitable.” Bess Lovejoy, author of REST IN PIECES
“In this thoughtful, wide-ranging examination, Schillace looks at how cultures worldwide have dealt with death, both in the past and present. Rituals that reflect a communal understanding of the pain felt by survivors can help ease the sting of loss, she points out, while modern western society looks at grief as an abnormal state, or assign it a timetable. The book offers no single answer or prescription, but it proposes we at least start the conversation.” Boston Globe
“Vivid, scholarly, enthralling, and surprisingly touching, Death’s Summer Coat is skillfully stitched together.” Rupert Callender, editor of THE NATURAL DEATH HANDBOOK
“Schillace raises a lot of questions surrounding the issue of mortality, leaving readers to form their own answers.” Library Journal