In this tumultuous period of American history, I am reexamining the values that we citizens call out as fundamental to who we are. Are we truly committed to justice for all? To religious freedom? To the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for everyone?
Fiction is now my tool to explore ideas in a living context. The work at hand concerns the current healthcare system in the United States, notorious world-wide for providing the least care for the greatest cost.
A young doctor comes of age in a rural town where she has traveled on a Schweitzer scholarship to work in a poor community. There she learns how a person’s zip code determines their health and happiness. It is a community of color and she is white and privileged. The town is struggling to combat the impacts of a coal ash dump on the outskirts of their town. Toxic chemicals seep into the watershed and pollute the air, causing many serious medical conditions. She confronts the fact that her patients will not be well until an environmental injustice is corrected.
The life of Albert Schweitzer — long a personal mentor for me in my own life — is intertwined in the narrative to help illuminate the young doctor’s path. In reality, the Schweitzer Fellowship operates worldwide and in the U.S. to offer communities assistance in overcoming entrenched economic and social injustices while providing young professionals real-life experiences that expand their understanding of the complexities in advancing true justice and economic freedom.
In discovering the Other America, the doctor must make hard choices. She grew up in a privileged life, a religious family which amassed wealth from the healthcare system that she now must try to change. In following her life, her quest for the Holy Grail, readers plumb the limits and the promise of a capitalist system. They experience the true beauty and resilience of community life in America through the life of one young American.