This week’s other featured books, “Big Giant Floating Head,” by Christopher Boucher and “Frost Heaves,” by T. Stores, can be found by scrolling down below this post, or by clicking the author’s name on our Authors page.
THE BOOK: Dottoressa: An American Doctor in Rome
PUBLISHED IN: 2019
THE AUTHOR: Susan Levenstein, MD
THE EDITOR: Julia Sippel
THE PUBLISHER: Paul Dry Books, Philadelphia
SUMMARY: After completing her medical training in New York, Susan Levenstein set off for a one year adventure in Rome. Forty years later, she is still practicing medicine in the Eternal City. In Dottoressa: An American Doctor in Rome Levenstein writes, with love and exasperation, about navigating her career through the renowned Italian tangle of brilliance and ineptitude, sexism and tolerance, rigidity and chaos.
Part memoir—starting with her epic quest for an Italian medical license—and part portrait of Italy from a unique point of view, Dottoressa is packed with vignettes that illuminate the national differences in character, lifestyle, health, and health care between her two countries. Levenstein, who has been called “the wittiest internist on earth,” covers everything from hookup culture to neighborhood madmen, Italian hands-off medical training, bidets, the ironies of expatriation, and why Italians always pay their doctor’s bills.
THE BACK STORY: I’ve told the back story and the back back story at length in my blog, “Stethoscope On Rome www.stethoscopeonrome.com.” The short version: as a new doc in Rome in the early 1980s, I wrote a column for the Rome Daily American on safe topics—obesity, hepatitis, diabetes. I was too insecure to write about what I found really interesting, the differences between Italian and American healthcare systems, patient attitudes, and physician behavior. But I took lots of notes and slowly, unconsciously, developed the idea of turning them into a book. Over three decades I wrote in spurts, until in 2014 I took the plunge and began working on the project in every free moment. On February 13th, 2017 I toasted the “final” manuscript in champagne, but it took more than a year before it found a home at Paul Dry Books, and more than two before copies rolled off the presses.
WHY THIS TITLE: Dottoressa simply means female doctor in Italian. A writer friend, Michael Mewshaw, suggested the title years ago, when the book was just a vague back-of-the-mind fantasy. For a while the subtitle was going to spell things out: “An American Woman Doctor in Rome.” But in the end my publisher and I decided the gendering was superfluous, and a bit squirm-making, so we scrapped “Woman.”
WHY SOMEONE WOULD WANT TO READ IT: Italy is everybody’s favorite country, and Dottoressa is all about Italy. Medicine is everybody’s favorite subject, and Dottoressa takes a deep plunge inside the examining room, methods, and insights of an experienced, thoughtful physician. Health care is everybody’s favorite political issue, and Dottoressa offers a valuable international perspective on what directions the American system could or should take. Plus the writing is laugh-out-loud funny.
“Dr. Levenstein’s gripping account of her experience as an American doctor in Rome is more than a memoir, it is a portrait of a changing country and the evolution of healthcare as seen from behind her stethoscope. It is as funny as it is poignant. A must read for anyone who thinks they understand medicine, Italy, or humanity.”—Barbie Latza Nadeau, Italy bureau chief of The Daily Beast, author of Roadmap to Hell: Sex, Drugs and Guns on the Mafia Coast
“Susan Levenstein’s Dottoressa is a smart, funny, charming, highly readable memoir of practicing medicine in Italy and is full of astute insights into the way Italy works. Approaching Italy from the vantage point of the medical profession and its health system is actually a great way to understand important aspects of Italian society.”—Alexander Stille, author of Benevolence and Betrayal, Excellent Cadavers, and The Force of Things
“She is a born raconteur, and has the observational skills of a sardonic cultural anthropologist. This is a wonderfully fun read.”—Prof. Robert Sapolsky, Stanford University, author of Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers and Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst
“Her intelligent, candid, and witty observations, with some moving and courageous insights, lead her and the reader to ask what medicine is and could be.”—Wallis Wilde-Menozzi, author of The Other Side of the Tiber, Reflections on Time in Italy
“This is one of those rare books that makes me want to underline every other sentence and put a star in the margin next to almost every paragraph. Dr. Susan Levenstein’s story of her forty years of experiences as an American female physician practicing in Rome is at once fascinating, frightening and funny, a lively, insightful and witty tour through an aspect of Italian life that few American visitors to Rome ever experience.”—Fra Noi
“The first chapters recount, with a combination of exasperation and humor, the years-long obstacle course she encountered in her quest to practice medicine in the country. She proceeds to talk about everything from what a well-dressed Italian physician should wear, to, in a particularly wise and witty chapter, love and sex from both an Italian and an American perspective. A timely epilogue discusses the Affordable Care Act from her unique position as an American expat and an Italian physician, with Levenstein reflecting on how Italians, despite widespread dissatisfaction with their own health system, manage to live more healthily than Americans.”— Publishers Weekly
“A charming story well told.”— Kirkus Reviews
“Finally an expat memoir which is not about food, foreign men, or house renovation, rich with insights into what makes these irresistible Italians tick . . . As the debate over universal healthcare, cost-cutting, and co-paying continues, Levenstein offers some timely, illuminating advice packed into a fascinating expat memoir both thought-provoking and fun to read.”— The Italian Insider
“These days, hundreds of policy papers and newspaper editorials regularly debate competing claims of medical efficiency, patient care, cost-containment, and expanding reach. But none do so with Levenstein’s humor and sensitivity to the human condition. And they certainly don’t make it fun — never mind being able to set the story in the Eternal City.”— The American Magazine In Italia
“An impressively candid, insightful, exceptionally well written and entertaining life story”—Midwest Book Review
“Dottoressa has the feel of an opera, with a prelude, three acts, and three interludes. Levenstein’s libretto is captivating and the aria she sings compelling. This Jewish female internist is determined to coax doctors and patients to see one another as human beings. She writes her prescription legibly—injecting humor to alleviate tedium, with enough Italian scenes to have US readers packing their suitcases.”— The Woven Tale Press
“It should particularly be read by those among the policy army advising Democratic candidates on matters of health.”—Health Care Renewal
AUTHOR PROFILE: Dr. Levenstein was born in Manhattan and is a graduate of Harvard University, the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, and the Residency Program in Social Medicine at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx. She moved to Rome in 1978 and has been practicing primary care internal medicine there ever since, treating a clientele that’s featured Roman auto mechanics and British ambassadors, Indonesian art restorers and Filipina maids, Russian poets and Ethiopian priests. When not seeing patients in her office, doing research in psychosomatic medicine, or being the Artist’s Wife to her composer husband, she enjoys blogging at Stethoscope On Rome, playing classical piano, performing watsu (WATer shiatSU, a form of bodywork in warm water), and walking the streets of the most beautiful city in the world.
SAMPLE CHAPTERS: Look Inside on Amazon.com. www.amazon.com/Dottoressa-American-Susan-Levenstein-MD/dp/1589881397
LOCAL OUTLETS: Independent bookshops
WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: Paul Dry Books Amazon.com Book Depository (free shipping worldwide) Barnes & Noble
PRICE: $16.95 list as a paperback, less as an ebook
CONTACT THE AUTHOR: email@example.com