Unmasked: Covid, Community, and the Case of Okoboji (Hardcover)

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Unmasked: Covid, Community, and the Case of Okoboji By Emily Mendenhall Cover Image

Unmasked: Covid, Community, and the Case of Okoboji (Hardcover)


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In May of 2020, Emily Mendenhall took her family home to Lake Okoboji to visit relatives, as she does every summer.  An anthropology professor at Georgetown University specializing in societies and how they navigate health crises, Ms. Mendenhall decides to look into her own community's handling of the Covid outbreak during those first scary and confusing months of the virus.  I read this to give myself a better understanding of how we as Iowans responded to Covid, even when some reactions seemed baffling to me.  And because of the author's connection to the community, Unmasked is an especially intimate, eye-opening, and nonjudgmental look at those responses.

— From Tim's Picks

Unmasked is the story of what happened in Okoboji, a small Iowan tourist town, when a collective turn from the coronavirus to the economy occurred in the COVID summer of 2020. State political failures, local negotiations among political and public health leaders, and community (dis)belief about the virus resulted in Okoboji being declared a hotspot just before the Independence Day weekend, when an influx of half a million people visit the town.

The story is both personal and political. Author Emily Mendenhall, an anthropologist at Georgetown University, grew up in Okoboji, and her family still lives there. As the events unfolded, Mendenhall was in Okoboji, where she spoke formally with over 100 people and observed a community that rejected public health guidance, revealing deep-seated mistrust in outsiders and strong commitments to local thinking. Unmasked is a fascinating and heartbreaking account of where people put their trust, and how isolationist popular beliefs can be in America's small communities.

This book is the recipient of the 2022 Norman L. and Roselea J. Goldberg Prize from Vanderbilt University Press for the best book in the area of art or medicine.
Emily Mendenhall is a professor of global health in the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. She is the author of Rethinking Diabetes: Entanglements of Trauma, Poverty, and HIV and Syndemic Suffering: Social Distress, Depression, and Diabetes among Mexican Immigrant Women and co-editor of Global Mental Health: Anthropological Perspectives.
Product Details ISBN: 9780826504524
ISBN-10: 0826504523
Publisher: Vanderbilt University Press
Publication Date: March 15th, 2022
Pages: 312
Language: English