In this season of sacrifice and light, I appreciate the many keen insights sent to me by readers of The Organ Thieves. I’m especially struck by your continued calls for honoring Bruce Tucker’s contributions to medical science as well as the sacrifices made by his family to this day.
I’m also grateful to Sandy Hausman, the award-winning correspondent for Virginia Public Media, for her recent report on Radio IQ/WVTF. Here’s an excerpt:
“The medical college, now known as VCU Health, has quietly expressed regret over the controversy surrounding the lack of consent from Bruce Tucker’s family before his heart was donated to an ailing white businessman who died a few days later. In a university magazine, VCU says the story ‘underscores the need to listen to and accept criticism and to learn from our past as we work to honor the dignity of all whom we serve.’
“But Chip Jones wonders if that's enough – especially in light of another discovery.
"In 1994, a huge construction project on the campus ground to a halt when construction workers were horrified to see human arms sticking out of the mud," he recalls. "Police called the university archaeology department, and they began to find bodies that were in a nearby well that had been dumped some time in the past. The remains were likely those of slaves or poor black residents of Richmond whose bodies were stolen from graves so medical students could dissect and study them.”
“The Organ Thieves has won considerable attention from news organizations nationwide as America grapples with questions of systemic racism.
“‘I love a quote from Richard Rohr, the theologian,’” [says Jones]. ‘You cannot heal what you do not acknowledge.’ I think there [are] still a lot of unacknowledged wounds that need to be healed.’"
“The book includes a teaching guide, and Jones hopes it can be used in high schools to explore issues of race and healing with the next generation.”
As we enter the holidays, I hope everyone’s staying safe and healthy! Some readers have asked about getting an audio version of The Organ Thieves, so here’s a link to purchasing it and hearing a sample by the gifted reader JD Jackson.
The Organ Thieves has received a major endorsement in the December issue of Scientific American. The review by editor Andrea Gawrylewski begins by noting America’s poor track record when it comes to providing equitable health care for Black Americans.
“The roots of this inequity are firmly rooted in racism, not race, writer Jones shows in this gripping book,” she writes.
Interest continues to spread across various media outlets, which you can see here at Media/Clips. These include a live stream interview on “Between the Covers” with Ann Bocock of South Florida PBS (the segment is slated for broadcast in early 2021, with possible national PBS broadcast).
You can also hear a fine interview by Julie Rose on “Top of Mind” on BYU Radio. And Brian Ellis, an MFA student at Hollins University, just interviewed me for the university’s Jackson Center for Creative Writing. Click here!
Readers continue to amaze and educate me about their own experiences. With his approval, I’m sharing one man’s poignant recollection about growing up in a Black family in rural Virginia in the 1950s. Reading The Organ Thieves brought back memories of his parents quietly discussing the treatment of African Americans in Virginia.
“We were always told to go outside or leave the room when they talked about things like that,” he wrote me. “What I remember them discussing was that there were some experiments relating to body parts and cadavers at MCV.”
In the 1950s, he noted, “Blacks were encouraged to use the Black hospital, Richmond Community. We lived in the town of Bowling Green that had a Black doctor who used Richmond Community. As I remember, he also referred patients to the Fredericksburg hospital as well as Howard University’s Freedmen’s Hospital.”
His father often traveled on business in and around Bowling Green, the county seat of Caroline County, 42 miles north of Richmond.
“He occasionally mentioned that he had been told of grave robbers. Since I was young, it did not particularly interest me. I thought the robbers were after valuables, such as bracelets, rings, and gold. Not bodies!”
Chip Jones is an award-winning author, journalist and former communications director of the Richmond Academy of Medicine. The Organ Thieves is his fourth book.