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Out of the Shadow of Leprosy

Out of the Shadow of Leprosy: The Carville Letters and Stories of the Landry Family

Claire Manes
Foreword by Marcia Gaudet
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 192
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  • Book Info
    Out of the Shadow of Leprosy
    Book Description:

    In 1924 when thirty-two-year-old Edmond Landry kissed his family good-bye 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 Familypresents 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.

    eISBN: 978-1-62103-942-6
    Subjects: Sociology, Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. ix-xii)

    Hansen’s disease (HD) activist Stanley Stein wrote, “It is not what we have lost that matters most, but what we choose to do with what we have left.” Stein entered the U.S. Public Health Service Hospital in Carville as a patient in 1931. He went on to establish Carville’s international news magazine,The Star, and to lead the first organized patient advocate group for a disease. In his autobiography,Alone No Longer, Stein credits another patient, Gabe Michael, with inspiring him to become an outspoken voice for patients’ rights. Gabe Michael had founded the Patients’ Canteen in 1925 and the...

  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. A Chronology of Edmond Landry’s Life 1891–1932
    (pp. xv-2)
  6. INTRODUCTION: A Family and a Disease
    (pp. 5-7)

    My great-grandparents, Joseph Terville Landry and his wife Lucie, had five children who lived to adulthood: Edmond (my grandfather), Norbert, Marie, Albert, and Amelie. (It is believed a sixth child died in infancy.) All five of the adult children spent the last years of their lives in Carville, Louisiana, at the home/hospital for the treatment of leprosy now called Hansen’s disease (HD). Norbert, the first to be diagnosed and incarcerated, was there from 1919 to 1924, followed by Edmond, 1924 to 1932; Amelie, 1934 to 1940; Marie, 1941 to 1962; and Albert, 1941 to 1977.

    When Norbert was diagnosed with...

  7. CHAPTER 1 Finding Carville, Finding Family
    (pp. 8-15)

    For slightly more than one hundred years, Carville, Louisiana, a quirky village on a bend in the Mississippi River south of Baton Rouge, was an ethnic melting pot; its hospital was the home to men, women, and children from not only the United States but from locations as diverse as Japan, Puerto Rico, Mexico, and the Philippines. Those in this ethnic mix were united by the microbes that had invaded their bodies and in some cases made them outcasts from their families and themselves. From 1894–1998, Carville was home to the Louisiana Leper Home, later the United States Public...

  8. CHAPTER 2 Edmond: Anticipating a Bright Future
    (pp. 17-29)

    At the end of January 1909, Edmond G. Landry left his home and family to begin his business studies in New Orleans. His trunk was packed and loaded in the buggy. He embraced his father, mother, and brother, Norbert, and kissed his younger siblings Marie, Albert, and Amelie. He left, a brash young man in a hurry. Only seventeen when he left his family for the first time, he boarded the train to New Orleans where he first resided at 1219 Coliseum Street at Mrs. Thibodaux’s home and enrolled in Soulé Business College.

    He began his classes on February 1,...

  9. CHAPTER 3 Moving into the Shadow: Life at Home
    (pp. 31-35)

    My favorite picture of my grandfather is one of him, my mother, and my grandmother taken in the spring or early summer of 1919. It is my grandfather’s best picture, and one that is indicative of the best years of his life. In the picture, he and his wife are sitting outside on the stoop in front of their rented home on Main Street in New Iberia. The sleeves of his white business shirt are rolled up, his tie is slightly loosened, and he is looking delightedly at his chubby young daughter, Teenie, sitting on his knee. His smile crinkles...

  10. CHAPTER 4 In Leprosy’s Shadow: Life in Carville
    (pp. 37-45)

    On September 11, 1924, one year and four months after Edmond had been confined to his home, incapacitated by leprosy, Dr. George Sabatier wrote to Dr. W. F. Carstens, Iberia Parish Health Officer and Edmond’s personal friend, “Patient isolated, Healthy environment, but anxious to enter Leprosarium for treatment” (Edmond G. Landry, medical records). Less than a month later, on October 3, Dr. Carstens received word from Dr. Oscar Dowling, Louisiana State Board of Health President, to have “Mr. E. G. Landry ‘leper’ [italics mine] 33, male, married sent forward” (Edmond G. Landry, medical records). Dr. Dowling also indicated that if...

  11. CHAPTER 5 Edmond’s Letters from Carville
    (pp. 47-140)

    Letters can never adequately reveal the anguish of a life lived separated from family, but they are courageous attempts at doing just that. While they may not ever fully express the passion of the heart, they are still an immediate and direct contact with loved ones. When Edmond sat down in Carville to write to his family, he was closeted in his cell-like bedroom, which contained a bed, a desk, books, a typewriter, and a small armoire or closet for his few possessions. The most recent framed picture of his wife and two children hung on the wall, as did...

  12. CHAPTER 6 Out of the Shadow: Finding Edmond
    (pp. 143-144)

    I cannot know what life in our family would have been like had we not been touched by leprosy and its secrets. My mother herself acknowledges that her reticence and “stand-offishness” was in part due to the secrets she had carried most of her life. Perhaps all of us in the family would have been more generous with hugs, kisses, and physical affection had this unspoken taboo not hung over us. I have often thought that our stoicism and reserve about expressing our emotions was caused in some part by our secrets and the underlying fear that my grandmother had...

  13. CHAPTER 7 Lives Remembered and Restored
    (pp. 145-187)

    My grandfather’s life was always the object of my search. He was the one I wanted to know, but I knew little of him and even less of his siblings. In fact, I had little sense that Norbert and Amelie even existed until the family letters were found in 1977. They, like Edmond, had died before any of my generation was born, and they had been swallowed up in the secrecy that surrounded us. I remember meeting Marie and Albert once or twice when I was a child. Once Marie died in 1962, Albert visited our family more often. He...

  14. CHAPTER 8 Epilogue: My Journey out of the Shadow
    (pp. 188-196)

    In writing this book, I intended to let my grandfather’s story be told in his own words without the interruption of too much analysis or theory. However, my writing was shaped by my academic studies and that bears acknowledgment. In this chapter, I will look at my own journey and some of my research, recognizing some of the theories and analysis that informed my work and gave context to my family’s narrative.

    When as a child I sat cross-legged on cold linoleum in my grandmother’s dark hall, I was looking for my grandfather. I fantasized that a picture of him...

  15. Notes
    (pp. 197-204)
  16. Works Cited
    (pp. 205-207)
  17. Index
    (pp. 208-211)