Out of the Shadow of Leprosy
The Carville Letters and Stories of the Landry Family
A firsthand account of the trauma and impact on one family facing leprosy
In 1924 when thirty-two-year-old Edmond Landry kissed his family goodbye and left for the leprosarium in Carville, Louisiana, leprosy, now referred to as Hansen's disease, stigmatized and disfigured but did not kill. Those with leprosy were incarcerated in the federal hospital and isolated from family and community. Phones were unavailable, transportation was precarious, and fear was rampant. Edmond entered the hospital (as did his four other siblings), but he did not surrender to his fate. He fought with his pen and his limited energy to stay connected to his family and to improve living conditions for himself and other patients
Claire Manes, Edmond's granddaughter, lived much of her life gripped by the silence surrounding her grandfather. When his letters were discovered, she became inspired to tell his story through her scholarship and his writing. Out of the Shadow of Leprosy: The Carville Letters and Stories of the Landry Family presents her grandfather's letters and her own studies of narrative and Carville during much of the twentieth century. The book becomes a testament to Edmond's determination to maintain autonomy and dignity in the land of the living dead. Letters and stories of the other four siblings further enhance the picture of life in Carville from 1919 to 1977.
"In eloquent prose, Claire Manes tells the touching and tragic story of her grandfather, Edmund, and his four siblings, who contracted one of the most feared diseases in history: leprosy. Manes draws upon her grandfather's letters, discovered years after his death, to paint a portrait of the man, who lived as one of the thousands of outcasts at the leprosy hospital in Carville, La. Driven to learn about the grandfather she never knew, Manes becomes a witness to his life--and the lives of many others who spent their days confined to the leprosy hospital in Carville, La. She weaves their stories with grace and style. It is not to be missed. "- Sally Squires, filmmaker, Triumph at Carville: A Tale of Leprosy in America (PBS)
"Throughout the world, one of the greatest challenges facing the Hansen's disease/leprosy community is ensuring that individuals whose lives have been affected by this disease are afforded their rightful place in the history of their families, their countries and the world. By sharing the letters that her family kept from their relatives who had been taken from them together with powerful family photographs, Claire Manes provides us with an important, very personal perspective on the social response to those who had leprosy in the days when people were forcibly relocated to places like Carville. Even more important, she shows how the bonds of family ultimately prove stronger than any disease or society's reaction to it. "- Anwei Skinsnes Law, international coordinator, IDEA (International Association for Integration, Dignity, and Economic Advancement)
"In the process of describing these 'half-lives' of the quarantined leprosy patients of days past to others, it appears that Claire herself has found an intimacy with those great-aunts and uncles and grandfather who lived the public secret of a leprosy diagnosis, achieving a release of sorts, for her whole family -not only the members who were quarantined by a diagnosis of a feared and criminalized disease. She has offered us a way to reach into a particular time and place and feel with them, as they live an unexpected life in the shadow of leprosy. "- Elizabeth Schexnyder, curator, National Hansen's Disease Museum