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Black Death at the Golden Gate: The Race to Save America from the Bubonic Plague

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For Chinese immigrant Wong Chut King, surviving in San Francisco meant a life in the shadows. His passing on March 6, 1900, would have been unremarkable if a city health officer hadn’t noticed a swollen black lymph node on his groin—a sign of bubonic plague. Empowered by racist pseudoscience, officials rushed to quarantine Chinatown while doctors examined Wong’s tissue for For Chinese immigrant Wong Chut King, surviving in San Francisco meant a life in the shadows. His passing on March 6, 1900, would have been unremarkable if a city health officer hadn’t noticed a swollen black lymph node on his groin—a sign of bubonic plague. Empowered by racist pseudoscience, officials rushed to quarantine Chinatown while doctors examined Wong’s tissue for telltale bacteria. If the devastating disease was not contained, San Francisco would become the American epicenter of an outbreak that had already claimed ten million lives worldwide. To local press, railroad barons, and elected officials, such a possibility was inconceivable—or inconvenient. As they mounted a cover-up to obscure the threat, ending the career of one of the most brilliant scientists in the nation in the process, it fell to federal health officer Rupert Blue to save a city that refused to be rescued. Spearheading a relentless crusade for sanitation, Blue and his men patrolled the squalid streets of fast-growing San Francisco, examined gory black buboes, and dissected diseased rats that put the fate of the entire country at risk. In the tradition of Erik Larson and Steven Johnson, Randall spins a spellbinding account of Blue’s race to understand the disease and contain its spread—the only hope of saving San Francisco, and the nation, from a gruesome fate.


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For Chinese immigrant Wong Chut King, surviving in San Francisco meant a life in the shadows. His passing on March 6, 1900, would have been unremarkable if a city health officer hadn’t noticed a swollen black lymph node on his groin—a sign of bubonic plague. Empowered by racist pseudoscience, officials rushed to quarantine Chinatown while doctors examined Wong’s tissue for For Chinese immigrant Wong Chut King, surviving in San Francisco meant a life in the shadows. His passing on March 6, 1900, would have been unremarkable if a city health officer hadn’t noticed a swollen black lymph node on his groin—a sign of bubonic plague. Empowered by racist pseudoscience, officials rushed to quarantine Chinatown while doctors examined Wong’s tissue for telltale bacteria. If the devastating disease was not contained, San Francisco would become the American epicenter of an outbreak that had already claimed ten million lives worldwide. To local press, railroad barons, and elected officials, such a possibility was inconceivable—or inconvenient. As they mounted a cover-up to obscure the threat, ending the career of one of the most brilliant scientists in the nation in the process, it fell to federal health officer Rupert Blue to save a city that refused to be rescued. Spearheading a relentless crusade for sanitation, Blue and his men patrolled the squalid streets of fast-growing San Francisco, examined gory black buboes, and dissected diseased rats that put the fate of the entire country at risk. In the tradition of Erik Larson and Steven Johnson, Randall spins a spellbinding account of Blue’s race to understand the disease and contain its spread—the only hope of saving San Francisco, and the nation, from a gruesome fate.

30 review for Black Death at the Golden Gate: The Race to Save America from the Bubonic Plague

  1. 5 out of 5

    Scott

    4.5 stars "The plague was not only spreading, but Chinese residents . . . appeared to be hiding victim's bodies in hopes that the decomposition process would obscure the true nature of death, turning the survival of [San Francisco] into a cat-and-mouse game." -- pages 58-59 Sometimes I like nothing better than investing time in a 'non-fiction novel' - a stylish narrative that covers an actual event (a natural or man-made catastrophe, a crime, an accident, etc.) - and getting caught up in the stor 4.5 stars "The plague was not only spreading, but Chinese residents . . . appeared to be hiding victim's bodies in hopes that the decomposition process would obscure the true nature of death, turning the survival of [San Francisco] into a cat-and-mouse game." -- pages 58-59 Sometimes I like nothing better than investing time in a 'non-fiction novel' - a stylish narrative that covers an actual event (a natural or man-made catastrophe, a crime, an accident, etc.) - and getting caught up in the story likes it's an all-star disaster movie from the 70's. That sounds a bit ghoulish, perhaps, but I'd like to think people often show their best selves when confronted with a very bad incident. Or, alternatively, you can get a glimpse of just how rotten or petty some people can be. Randall's Black Death at the Golden Gate recounts the deadly bubonic plague outbreak striking San Francisco at the start of the 20th century. At the time said city was THE metropolis on the U.S. west coast, much larger and more populous than Los Angeles (though that would eventually change with the forthcoming entertainment industry), as it was a major port and railroad terminus, and it hosts (and still does) the largest community of Chinese immigrants in its large Chinatown neighborhood. Unfortunately, it was also a city then-known for its self-serving, questionable, and corrupt politics. Into this mix arrives the lethal plague, which confounds the local medical establishment, enflames racism (since it first appeared among the Chinese population), and is badly downplayed by many in city and state government to safeguard the area's reputation. After the initial investigating physician, a federal officer from the Marine Hospital Service (now called the U.S. Public Health Service) and an honest if not exactly personable man, is cruelly excommunicated after attempting follow correct procedures we meet the true protagonist of the event. Rupert Blue, the next assigned government physician - an underdog-type, he is sort of described as an average ordinary guy - quickly taps into previously unused personal skills and strength with his new, unenviable position. The humble, hard-working Dr. Blue admirably rises to the occasion and then literally races against time to prevent the plague from spreading beyond San Francisco's Bay Area. The sweeping changes in health codes and sanitation - things we now take for granted - as a result of the outbreak were also sort of fascinating.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jeanette

    Such a deep subject and over quite a span of time- this was supremely researched. The only star it loses is that it sidetracked to Gold Rush and other historical background context a bit more than was necessary, IMHO. But all told the title is the core of this book. Oh the early 1898-1903 "fights" between the individuals and the politico "eyes" (BOTH) of the two highest officials! And the obscuring of the reality to the populace or even to the numbers or locations because of the disorganization an Such a deep subject and over quite a span of time- this was supremely researched. The only star it loses is that it sidetracked to Gold Rush and other historical background context a bit more than was necessary, IMHO. But all told the title is the core of this book. Oh the early 1898-1903 "fights" between the individuals and the politico "eyes" (BOTH) of the two highest officials! And the obscuring of the reality to the populace or even to the numbers or locations because of the disorganization and just plain selfishness of the "know betters"! It reminds me of the politico "eyes" of the present which allow infectious disease to stream into the country without the stringent measures required at all and at every time because it doesn't fit their "compassionate" politico agenda. Then, like now, the politicians and officials druthers came/ come first. And people continued to die. It was the most remarkable 5 star portion within the last 1/3rd, in the story of Rupert Blue in particular. I had never heard of the man. What a true heroic life he lead. And what sacrifices and disdaining rejections he suffered for his unrelenting truth telling. And rat wars he conducted against huge and always ridiculed push back. Not to speak of the loneliness! Only the quirks of the fleas saved 100,000's (100's dying instead of 100,000's) and we still get about 7 deaths a year in the western USA presently. Squirrels can carry it too. The big Earthquake seems to have put the Bubonic Plague in the shade, so to speak, historically re San Francisco. It sure shouldn't have. Not for the great numbers it killed then and since. Lies, lies, lies and cover ups to disease outcomes and sources with their paths-alive and well within S.F. presently-just as the feces piles and the rats are. For the most delicate, this book is not politically correct, IMHO. Racial projection and laws, treatments and consequences for a number of issues, like quarantine- very unequal as well.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Aimee Dars

    Until reading Black Death at the Golden Gate, I didn't realize that San Francisco suffered not just one but two plague outbreaks in the early 1900s. Yet, efforts to eliminate the scourge were hampered by multiple factors. Joseph Kinyoun, the first doctor posted by the Marine Medical Service, the federal agency then with jurisdiction over health matters, alienated local politicians with his arrogant attitude. Plus, at this time, the germ theory of medicine was just beginning to be accepted. City a Until reading Black Death at the Golden Gate, I didn't realize that San Francisco suffered not just one but two plague outbreaks in the early 1900s. Yet, efforts to eliminate the scourge were hampered by multiple factors. Joseph Kinyoun, the first doctor posted by the Marine Medical Service, the federal agency then with jurisdiction over health matters, alienated local politicians with his arrogant attitude. Plus, at this time, the germ theory of medicine was just beginning to be accepted. City and state leaders resisted the diagnosis of plague when residents of Chinatown began dying with the telltale symptoms, including buboes, because they didn't want to inhibit the city's growth. Residents of Chinatown refused to cooperate because they feared officials would raze their neighborhood. Meanwhile, ordinary citizens believed whites were immune. Only when Dr. Rupert Blue replaced Dr. Kinyoun, a more amiable administrator—and when whites also started falling victim to the disease—did officials cooperate to rid the city of the plague. Thought safe from the crisis, Dr. Blue was reassigned, but the earthquake of 1906 created a new emergency. David Randall's book is a well-written, well-researched, and engaging book that reveals this hidden pocket of medical history while showing how powerful political interests, greed, and racism can undermine attempts to save the public.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Raughley Nuzzi

    This is a really engaging pop-history of science covering a series of Plague outbreaks in California at the turn of the last century. It was remarkable to see today's headlines reflected in the issues of 1898 San Francisco, from the anti-vaxxers deriding the work of scientists, to an executive blind to objectivity in favor of political expediency, to an anti-immigrant fervor against unwashed masses, to hyperbolic claims and counter-claims of fake news. The story sometimes reads like a slowly unfo This is a really engaging pop-history of science covering a series of Plague outbreaks in California at the turn of the last century. It was remarkable to see today's headlines reflected in the issues of 1898 San Francisco, from the anti-vaxxers deriding the work of scientists, to an executive blind to objectivity in favor of political expediency, to an anti-immigrant fervor against unwashed masses, to hyperbolic claims and counter-claims of fake news. The story sometimes reads like a slowly unfolding horror movie with a mysterious silent killer lurking the streets of San Francisco while doctors and scientists do their level best to thwart its efforts. There were Jack-the-Ripper vibes and I could almost picture a modern police procedural in the description of Rupert Blue's map marked with red X's for every plague victim. It's a fascinating peek back just 120 years to a time when germ theory had only recently been adopted by the medical community (to say nothing of the public), but antibiotics were yet to be developed. San Francisco was teeming with plagued rats under its wooden sidewalks and packed-dirt basements and use of microscopes by physicians was seen as a quaint hobby. Technologically, we've come a long way since then, but in many ways, we're still stuck in an 1898 mentality. Overall, well-written, well-narrated, and extremely interesting!

  5. 5 out of 5

    Kelly

    A fascinating, engrossing, and at times downright enraging look at the spread of bubonic plague in San Francisco at the turn of the 20th century. The book follows how two doctors recognized what was going on and how one was let down turn after turn, allowing the disease to spread because of inadequate funding and support -- as well as rampant xenophobia and racism -- while the other doctor was able to make inroads and discover that it was a specific type of flea that spread the disease to rats a A fascinating, engrossing, and at times downright enraging look at the spread of bubonic plague in San Francisco at the turn of the 20th century. The book follows how two doctors recognized what was going on and how one was let down turn after turn, allowing the disease to spread because of inadequate funding and support -- as well as rampant xenophobia and racism -- while the other doctor was able to make inroads and discover that it was a specific type of flea that spread the disease to rats and then onto people. He helped develop a public health system and ways to combat the further spread of plague (even though anyone who has spent time in the west or southwest knows it exists still, and that's touched on here a bit in regards to the wild squirrels). Randall doesn't shy away from the realities of racism and classism, and he does a great job framing the situation in San Francisco with the greater things going on in the US and around the world at the same time. The earthquake is covered and offers sort of the ah ha moment of figuring out why the disease was spreading the way it was, followed later by further understanding of its spreading in Los Angeles following World War I and the Spanish Influenza. The history of disease, and plague especially, is fascinating to me, and Randall writes the history in a compelling, engaging manner. Readers who dig this and are open to reading nonfiction for youth would do well with Bubonic Panic: When Plague Invaded America as well, which is how I was already aware of the history of the plague in America.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Matt Popovich

    When I read this in 2019, I had no idea its lessons would become so salient so soon. The interactions in Black Death at the Golden Gate between the public, the press, public health authorities, business interests, and the local and federal government are so astonishingly reminiscent of the battles between these forces we've all watched play out in 2020 that you'd think the author prescient to write this book when he did. It turns out that none of the vitriol, the foot-dragging denial, the Sinophob When I read this in 2019, I had no idea its lessons would become so salient so soon. The interactions in Black Death at the Golden Gate between the public, the press, public health authorities, business interests, and the local and federal government are so astonishingly reminiscent of the battles between these forces we've all watched play out in 2020 that you'd think the author prescient to write this book when he did. It turns out that none of the vitriol, the foot-dragging denial, the Sinophobia, the uprisings against public health measures, or the predictably catastrophic consequences are unique to our modern pandemic -- far from it. The only thing you'll regret about reading this book is that it'll teach you a history you'll be doomed to watch repeat again in real time.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Meg

    Remember the Middle Ages with all of its death-by-pandemic? This is a true account of when the Bubonic plague hit the United States at the turn on the last century. For years, one of my favorite books and reading experiences for book club was Steven Johnson’s GHOST MAP. I’ve been searching for something to scratch that itch ever since, but hadn’t found anything close enough... until now. Author David Randall tells a fascinating story about the race to discover the cause and cure, with an element Remember the Middle Ages with all of its death-by-pandemic? This is a true account of when the Bubonic plague hit the United States at the turn on the last century. For years, one of my favorite books and reading experiences for book club was Steven Johnson’s GHOST MAP. I’ve been searching for something to scratch that itch ever since, but hadn’t found anything close enough... until now. Author David Randall tells a fascinating story about the race to discover the cause and cure, with an element of racism to foul things up even further, all set on the Pacific seaboard of the United States. This is one of those “how have I never heard about this?!” stories from history.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Porter Broyles

    I had forgotten I had put a hold on this through my library, so was a little surprised when it popped up in my audio library. First, the narration. I am not a fan of speed reading and felt that I could have slowed this book down to 80% of speed and been fine with it. The guy who narrated it simply spoke to fast to let the story sink in. Second, the story. I remember learning about the black death and how they figured out that it was transmitted through fleas in High School. I did not recall that i I had forgotten I had put a hold on this through my library, so was a little surprised when it popped up in my audio library. First, the narration. I am not a fan of speed reading and felt that I could have slowed this book down to 80% of speed and been fine with it. The guy who narrated it simply spoke to fast to let the story sink in. Second, the story. I remember learning about the black death and how they figured out that it was transmitted through fleas in High School. I did not recall that it happened in the United States nor the opposition the scientist faced when investigating it. At the time, Americans had reached the conclusion that the plague was spread through fifth. Moreover, they had decided that the plague was specifically a Chinese problem. I deliberately did not say "Chinese-American", because while most of the early victims were undoubtedly Americans, they were not seen as such. Most "experts" wanted to pretend that the disease was limited to Chinatown in the San Franscico area. If somebody caught it, it was a de facto proof that they had been to Chinatown. As it manifested itself in the pubic areas first, it was seen as a sexually transmitted disease! Needless to say, the "experts" didn't know what they were talking about and exiled the scientist so that they couldn't spread their lies. I guess in that regard, this book has something to say about modern America. Don't confuse our irrational beliefs with the facts. Unfortunately, this realization comes more in reflecting upon this review than it did while listening to the audio.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Fredrick Danysh

    A well written history of the plague's appearance in Hawaii and San Francisco as well as the efforts to combat it at the advent of the twentith century. The development of the Public Health Service is chronicled as well as the personalities of the doctors involved. The ethnic and financial bias of the period is also well documented. This was a free review copy obtained through Goodreads.com. A well written history of the plague's appearance in Hawaii and San Francisco as well as the efforts to combat it at the advent of the twentith century. The development of the Public Health Service is chronicled as well as the personalities of the doctors involved. The ethnic and financial bias of the period is also well documented. This was a free review copy obtained through Goodreads.com.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Lauren

    I worried reading this during the COVID-19 pandemic might exacerbate anxiety, but it really didn't. The story was simply fascinating, and I found myself dog-earing so many pages with parallels to 2020: politicians refusing to recognize the outbreak, muffling the media, laying blame on ethnic groups. Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it. Highly recommended. I worried reading this during the COVID-19 pandemic might exacerbate anxiety, but it really didn't. The story was simply fascinating, and I found myself dog-earing so many pages with parallels to 2020: politicians refusing to recognize the outbreak, muffling the media, laying blame on ethnic groups. Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it. Highly recommended.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jane

    A devastating disease, an apathetic and greedy local government, and an unlikely hero. Black Death at the Golden Gate is a shocking tale of a plague outbreak in turn of the century California, an event that had previously been buried in America's history. David K. Randall paints a vivid picture of the chilling events from San Francisco, using a multitude of sources to give the readers a true understanding of who these men facing the Black Death were, and what they stood for. Randall does an amazi A devastating disease, an apathetic and greedy local government, and an unlikely hero. Black Death at the Golden Gate is a shocking tale of a plague outbreak in turn of the century California, an event that had previously been buried in America's history. David K. Randall paints a vivid picture of the chilling events from San Francisco, using a multitude of sources to give the readers a true understanding of who these men facing the Black Death were, and what they stood for. Randall does an amazing job at pointing out that history isn't just black and white; no person is either "good" or "bad." You learn each character's strength, but also their faults. I am often frustrated that authors leave the less pretty information out to make a more compelling hero. Randall absolutely came through, providing the whole picture. This read is fascinating, shocking, chilling, and in the end, encouraging. It is an absolute must read!!

  12. 4 out of 5

    Pamela

    4.5 stars. A historical medical mystery following two doctors who recognized plague when it came to the US and had to fight politicians, business interests, and rampant racism and xenophobia in trying to control the disease. Because of all the pushback the doctors and the Marine Medical Service encountered, it took too long to make the connection to rats and fleas, and now western squirrels also carry the disease (as anyone who has been to a park near Lake Tahoe can tell you; there are signs war 4.5 stars. A historical medical mystery following two doctors who recognized plague when it came to the US and had to fight politicians, business interests, and rampant racism and xenophobia in trying to control the disease. Because of all the pushback the doctors and the Marine Medical Service encountered, it took too long to make the connection to rats and fleas, and now western squirrels also carry the disease (as anyone who has been to a park near Lake Tahoe can tell you; there are signs warning people to stay away from plague-bearing squirrels). As noted in the last sentence, “ ... the disease remains hidden along the wide open horizon of the West, where it waits to once again make a jump into the human population.”

  13. 4 out of 5

    Kyle

    A history book that reads nothing like one; I was engaged by Randall's writing. The book's subject, the Plague, is accompanied by additional topics of racism, corrupted politics and media, and negative scientific attitudes which, unfortunately, don't feel as distanced as they should. A history book that reads nothing like one; I was engaged by Randall's writing. The book's subject, the Plague, is accompanied by additional topics of racism, corrupted politics and media, and negative scientific attitudes which, unfortunately, don't feel as distanced as they should.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Paperclippe

    Another one for the "Mandatory Reading in a Time of Pandemic" list. Protip: racism and the economy are really bad reasons to let people die of infectious disease because what could possibly go wrong? Another one for the "Mandatory Reading in a Time of Pandemic" list. Protip: racism and the economy are really bad reasons to let people die of infectious disease because what could possibly go wrong?

  15. 5 out of 5

    Angela Han

    This book discusses on how bubonic plague spreaded, political barriers, and how plague was treated. I enjoyed listening to the book. I loved how the reader can picture the scenario that is depicted in writing. First, blame was first placed on Chinatown. During this era, racism againt chinese were prevalent and accepted. Second, the truth of the plague existence was held back in San Francisco for political benefit. Whistleblowers (doctors) were targeted to hold back the truth. Third, when the plag This book discusses on how bubonic plague spreaded, political barriers, and how plague was treated. I enjoyed listening to the book. I loved how the reader can picture the scenario that is depicted in writing. First, blame was first placed on Chinatown. During this era, racism againt chinese were prevalent and accepted. Second, the truth of the plague existence was held back in San Francisco for political benefit. Whistleblowers (doctors) were targeted to hold back the truth. Third, when the plague became epidemic, people starting taking action to combat the plague. Federal doctors took on the challenge of researching the root of the spread and taking necessary action to reduce the spread!

  16. 4 out of 5

    Tanya

    A

  17. 4 out of 5

    Christy

    As an RN who minored in history, this book was right up my alley. Prior to picking up the book, I did not know about this struggle to eradicate bubonic plague on the West Coast in (fairly) contemporary times. So, this book read like a mystery. The book details the timeline between patient zero through through the nail biting peak and ultimate end of the scourge in San Francisco. At the time of patient zero, the route of transmission and the vector of Yersinia pestis had not been identified. Davi As an RN who minored in history, this book was right up my alley. Prior to picking up the book, I did not know about this struggle to eradicate bubonic plague on the West Coast in (fairly) contemporary times. So, this book read like a mystery. The book details the timeline between patient zero through through the nail biting peak and ultimate end of the scourge in San Francisco. At the time of patient zero, the route of transmission and the vector of Yersinia pestis had not been identified. David Randall reminds us, though, that bacteria Yersinia pestis is still around (sorry/not sorry, rodents) so we should not get too complacent. The book has lots of engrossing sub-plots including widespread bigotry and cover-ups by the media and local governments. The evolving profession of medicine (late 1800s to early 1900s) and understanding of science make for interesting backstories. The true heroes in this book are science and the federal public health officers. I got this book gratis from Goodreads.com in exchange for my honest review. I recommend this book to anyone interested in science, history, medicine, infectious disease, public health, rodentia, San Francisco, or non-fiction books that read like mystery. If you liked, “The Great Influenza,” you’ll love “Black Death at the Golden Gate.”

  18. 4 out of 5

    Angus McKeogh

    For such a hair-raising topic this was about as boring as it gets. A vast topic that seemed to be done with explication in a couple hundred pages but yet the book went on for a hundred or so more. Loads of less important digressions and uninteresting footnotes along the way. Unfortunately I’ve read some other books about diseases that were 5-stars; this was not one of them.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Caitlyn

    This is a fascinating history of the efforts of public health officials to prevent the spread of bubonic plague in San Francisco in the early 1900s. Efforts were fraught with prejudice, political maneuvering and corruption, bacteriology as a new science, and the discovery that the plague was spread by fleas. It’s the history of San Francisco, of California, and the newly formed federal public health. It regards the sociology of medicine, and science deniers. The book is written for the lay perso This is a fascinating history of the efforts of public health officials to prevent the spread of bubonic plague in San Francisco in the early 1900s. Efforts were fraught with prejudice, political maneuvering and corruption, bacteriology as a new science, and the discovery that the plague was spread by fleas. It’s the history of San Francisco, of California, and the newly formed federal public health. It regards the sociology of medicine, and science deniers. The book is written for the lay person and is a quick, easy, and fascinating read.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Martin

    The book is essential reading to understand the history, science, and politics of dealing with a public health crisis. It will provide insights into the inept and mendacious failures of our current President and his administration’s mishandling of the COVID 19 pandemic too. Recommended for all readers.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Joell

    I love reading about turn-of-the-last-century science. This seemed current with its anti-immigrant sentiments, fake news and politicians more interested in trade than lives.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Robyn

    I had this book on my "to read" list well before we'd even heard of COVID-19, and put it on hold right before the library closed, so I ended up reading it a few months into this current global pandemic. As I was reading I reflected a lot on how different of a read it probably would have been had I read it a year ago, or even a few months ago. If you are like me, you probably had no clue that the bubonic plague didn't just "die out" after it devastated Europe several centuries ago. This book tells I had this book on my "to read" list well before we'd even heard of COVID-19, and put it on hold right before the library closed, so I ended up reading it a few months into this current global pandemic. As I was reading I reflected a lot on how different of a read it probably would have been had I read it a year ago, or even a few months ago. If you are like me, you probably had no clue that the bubonic plague didn't just "die out" after it devastated Europe several centuries ago. This book tells the North American story from the early 1900's, but a few years prior to that it sounds like it absolutely ravaged Asia. Check out Wikipedia if you are interested! I had no idea. This book was really well done. It's not too long but it seems very well-researched, and the writing was mostly engaging, though sometimes I drifted a bit. I think if I'd read it six months ago I would have been SHOCKED at how the American politicians and media behaved when facing a potential deadly epidemic (right down to blaming the whole thing on Chinese people), but now I'm like, yeah sounds about right. The response to outbreaks of plague in San Francisco 100+ years ago was spookily similar to how things are unfolding in the modern era. The only thing that prevented plague from devastating the entire country at the time was likely just a stroke of luck (no spoilers) - COVID-19 unfortunately doesn't share the same quirk. But let's not be so quick to blame the current US response, or lack thereof, on one certain person - it may just be the inevitable American way. Would recommend if you like historical narrative non-fiction and aren't sick of talking about deadly epidemics! History repeats itself, unfortunately.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Weixiang

    The roots of racism towards Chinese immigrants during the late 1800s is very much new to me. I've not read much stories, analysis, historical events of how the white devils treated the Chinese during the time of the Chinese exclusion act, nor during the transcontinental railroad building. It's nice how this book was the first book to introduce me into that world of racism, from a world of eugenical thinking. This book was a great background on how the Chinese was treated during that time, and the The roots of racism towards Chinese immigrants during the late 1800s is very much new to me. I've not read much stories, analysis, historical events of how the white devils treated the Chinese during the time of the Chinese exclusion act, nor during the transcontinental railroad building. It's nice how this book was the first book to introduce me into that world of racism, from a world of eugenical thinking. This book was a great background on how the Chinese was treated during that time, and the entire reading was similar to how the Soviet union treated the cover up of Chernobyl. It was all too close how the black death would've come into the world of the golden mountains before the dawn of the Flu virus.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Erica Clou

    Startling how similar the reaction of the Governor of California was over 100 years ago to that of our President today. Just cover up the Bubonic Plague! Don't make a big deal of it and it will go away. Microbes don't care about positive thinking or panic or anything other than actual protective measures and treatment. All the descriptions of this book say it's the story of Rupert Blue, but can we take a minute for Joseph James Kinyoun? He was the first hero. I have a lot of sympathy for him. It Startling how similar the reaction of the Governor of California was over 100 years ago to that of our President today. Just cover up the Bubonic Plague! Don't make a big deal of it and it will go away. Microbes don't care about positive thinking or panic or anything other than actual protective measures and treatment. All the descriptions of this book say it's the story of Rupert Blue, but can we take a minute for Joseph James Kinyoun? He was the first hero. I have a lot of sympathy for him. It's terrible to live in a world where people won't listen to science and require being constantly charmed to accept reality. The bad guys create a fictional world and force us all to live in it. Fun fact: You can still get Bubonic Plague from fleas, though early detection and treatment with antibiotics should cure you.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Joseph Wolf

    Great book that thoroughly explores a story I had never heard about America's struggle to stop a bubonic plague epidemic in San Francisco from spreading across the country. Sometimes a bit to thorough, as it drags on or goes of on a tangent at times. Some of the parallels to the pandemic today are really interesting. Racism, politics, and the pride of public leaders were the main factors preventing the disease from being controlled. Also interesting to learn about how the epidemic largely led to Great book that thoroughly explores a story I had never heard about America's struggle to stop a bubonic plague epidemic in San Francisco from spreading across the country. Sometimes a bit to thorough, as it drags on or goes of on a tangent at times. Some of the parallels to the pandemic today are really interesting. Racism, politics, and the pride of public leaders were the main factors preventing the disease from being controlled. Also interesting to learn about how the epidemic largely led to the creation of the public health service and how the then new field of bacteriology was becoming more widely embraced throughout the time. Good read!

  26. 5 out of 5

    clare

    "On the eve of the modern era, one of the most feared diseases in human history returned without warning and unleashed death on a scale not seen in centuries." pg. 4 I really enjoyed the narrative style Randall has going on here. The ability to build suspense in nonfiction is something that I admire. The story is repetitive but it never feels repetitive. He takes care to name every plague victim individually, most of whom were previously erased by racist science. It's very much restorative histor "On the eve of the modern era, one of the most feared diseases in human history returned without warning and unleashed death on a scale not seen in centuries." pg. 4 I really enjoyed the narrative style Randall has going on here. The ability to build suspense in nonfiction is something that I admire. The story is repetitive but it never feels repetitive. He takes care to name every plague victim individually, most of whom were previously erased by racist science. It's very much restorative history. I wasn't expecting to like this as much as I did. This is another instance where I wish goodreads would allow us halves, because I would give it a 4.5.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Annie

    Just wrote a review but Goodreads deleted it🙄 Enjoyed listening to the book. Could’ve been briefer, but that’s ok. Interesting to see human reaction to the outbreaks of plague here. Parallels I saw to COVID-19 reactions: racism, trying to save face, prioritizing the economy, etc Just finished reading the Scarlet Plague by Jack London. Written around 1910 and set in a fictional post pandemic apocalypse San Francisco. I’d like to read up on how he experienced the SF plague outbreak that happened jus Just wrote a review but Goodreads deleted it🙄 Enjoyed listening to the book. Could’ve been briefer, but that’s ok. Interesting to see human reaction to the outbreaks of plague here. Parallels I saw to COVID-19 reactions: racism, trying to save face, prioritizing the economy, etc Just finished reading the Scarlet Plague by Jack London. Written around 1910 and set in a fictional post pandemic apocalypse San Francisco. I’d like to read up on how he experienced the SF plague outbreak that happened just a few years prior. Also apparently he was a white supremacist, which is a bummer.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Gerry

    Randall writes well, and kept his narrative moving along compellingly. Who knew that not only had bubonic plague actually occurred in 20th century America, but that it still exists to this day, especially in the western part of the country? What prevented its eradication was primarily a combination of racism and greed, as politicians fought to maintain a cloak of secrecy over the outbreak lest the economy of their city be damaged.

  29. 4 out of 5

    ☕Laura

    I thought this book was good but not quite as good as The Barbary Plague: The Black Death in Victorian San Francisco by Marilyn Chase. I thought this book was good but not quite as good as The Barbary Plague: The Black Death in Victorian San Francisco by Marilyn Chase.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Kate

    Excellent read. Nothing has changed in 119 years. Hatred of immigrants. Politics corrupt and criminal. People in charge trying their hardest to destroy anyone who they feel may threaten them and trying to get more power and funding.

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