When I heard that the One Maryland book selection was about the water crisis in Flint, I must admit my first thought was that it was going to be a boring book. I was wrong.
The book, What the Eyes Don’t See by Mona Hanna-Attisha, was sitting on my desk. A colleague asked if I had read it, and I indicated that I wasn’t sure it would be interesting. She told me I was mistaken and began to describe how this pediatrician wrote a compelling story that wove so many facets of her life together. She was right—it was a compelling story.
The book is masterfully written, but beyond the story and how she tells it lie so many questions for us as a society to ponder. She talks about the kind of government in Iraq from which her family fled and then outlines a governmental breakdown in democracy that put young children in danger. How can this happen in the United States? What broke down? How did we move so far from the values that guided the development of our nation? How do we keep this from happening in the future?
As a pediatrician, she speaks articulately about the impact of trauma on children. As we begin to grapple with that as a school system, I found her insights in this area to be valuable. The advocacy of healthcare providers and educators must become a powerful force for our children, especially the ones whose voices are not heard. She models the work we all must do to ensure every child has the chance to fulfill their potential. I’ll share a quote from the book that speaks to why this matters:
To put it as simply as I can: early trauma and toxic stresses leave a mark on the brain and change neural pathways. Children exposed to adversity need to be soothed, loved, and taught how to cope and be resilient; they need to be properly nourished and surrounded by people who value them; they need policies that support them. With all these in place, they can cope and rebound; otherwise they may be living with the impact forever. P. 171
And so, I found What the Eyes Don’t See to be a compelling story, an enjoyable read, and an inspiration! Let’s all do our part to make sure each and every child has the support needed to achieve their full potential. If we don’t do it, then who will?