“We used the milk coupons gratefully and wished there were coupons for vegetables, rice, or meat. I went to the grocery store in our neighborhood, where the clerks whipped through the WIC transactions without batting an eye … I want to write that I got over the shame, because my brain disapproves. Do you think I am too good to be poor? The shame turned me inside out and shifted me slightly. Revealing my prejudices like a strobe light catching me in an awkward pose.” (144)
Huber hopes that her readers see “the emotional and personal toll that the ‘for profit’ healthcare system has on everyone.” And there are stories in this book that will strike you on a personal note. I found myself sitting in the dentist chair reliving my own experiences with her as she weighs the decision to pull a tooth for $25 or spend the enormous fees for root canal and crowns. This is more than just personal experience; this is how Americans weigh our own worth when balancing options for our health versus other basic needs. Do we go to the doctor knowing that along with the office visit fee is the elaborate cost of medication? Huber explores how we make these decisions, especially, when many times it means there may not be any money left over to pay the rent, electric bill, gas bill, or possibly buy food for that week.
I sat down with Sonya Huber during the summer session at Ashland University’s MFA Program where she is an instructor. When I asked her what she wanted her readers to come away with, she said:
“I think the one take-away for me is that I hope readers get a chance to see that their own seemingly small experiences in this battle also matter, that this system has an effect on all of our lives, and that realizing the effects of the system and talking about them can help us change the system and make a new one that works. I spent a lot of my life ashamed for my “incompetence” in getting healthcare, and I think a lot of people are ashamed for similar reasons, but the solution is to talk about it.”
Cover Me makes us all a little more willing to share our stories and give a voice to our frustrations. This book isn’t a radical call for change, it doesn’t offer solutions; rather, it begins a much-needed dialogue. Political party battle lines and “what ifs” about medical care dissolve into the idea that medical care and our health are very basic needs that every United States citizen should be able to rely on without stress, frustration, or embarrassment. This book illustrates, in a way that mere political rhetoric cannot, how the lack of accessible, affordable medical care negatively affects everyone on a personal, emotional and economic scale.
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