We are living in a unique point in human history. People are living longer than ever, yet the longer we live, the more taboo and alien our mortality becomes. Yet we, and our loved ones, still remain mortal. People today still struggle with this fact, as we have done throughout our entire history. What led us to this point—what drove us to sanitize death and make it foreign and unfamiliar? In Death's Summer Coat Brandy Schillace explores our past to examine what it might mean for our future. From Victorian Britain to contemporary Cambodia, forgotten customs and modern-day rituals, we learn about the incredibly diverse—and sometimes just incredible—ways in which humans have dealt with mortality in different times and places. Today, as we begin to talk about mortality, there are difficult questions to face. What does it mean to have a "good death?" What purpose should a funeral serve? As Schillace shows, talking about death, and the rituals associated with it, can help provide answers. It also brings us closer together—conversation and community are just as important for living as for dying. Some of the stories are strikingly unfamiliar; others are far more familiar than you might suppose. But all reveal much about the present—and about ourselves.
Dr. BRANDY SCHILLACE is an author, historian, show-host and Editor of BMJ’s Medical Humanities Journal. Brandy has written about the history of death, dying, and grief (Death's Summer Coat) and steampunk science (Clockwork Futures). Her recent book, MR. HUMBLE AND DR. BUTCHER–described by the New York Times as a “macabre delight”–explores Cold War medicine, bioethics, and organ transplant. Brandy’s next nonfiction, THE INTERMEDIARIES, will tell the forgotten, daring history of the interwar Institute of Sexology in Berlin: trans activists, the first gender affirming surgeries, and the fight for LGBTQ rights in the shadow of the Nazi Third Reich. Rebels against empires, it’s a heart-stopping story of courage in the face of long odds.
Brandy hosts a regular YouTube show, Peculiar Book Club, featureing livestream chats with bestselling authors of unusual nonfiction, from Lindsey Fitzharris and Mary Roach to Ed Yong and Deborah Blum. She has appeared on Travel Channel’s Mysteries at the Museum, NPR’s Here and Now, and the History Channel. Bylines at WIRED, UNDARK,Scientific American, Globe and Mail, WSJ, and Substack. (she/her/they)