Wednesday, April 3, 2024

Waist-Deep in Dung: A stomach-churning look at the grossest jobs throughout history by Christine Virnig, illustrated by Korwin Briggs

 Virnig, a Wisconsin doctor turned author, debuted with what might be the grossest book yet in my collection, Dung for Dinner. The fun continues in this hilarious, disgusting, and thoughtful book about gross jobs throughout history.

Virnig opens with a thoughtful introduction about why people chose - or didn't choose - to perform these jobs throughout history. She also includes a warning for those with weak stomachs! The first section covers corpses and medical grossness, from making mummies in Egypt to the nurse's assistants who help people today. The focus is primarily on Europe, but Virnig gives a nod to other cultures, especially those with more advanced medical knowledge.

The second session plunges into poop - and vomit, pee, and other bodily substances, starting back in ancient Rome and moving through gross jobs like tanners, mudlarks, and the changes in how we collect and handle sewage. Virnig explores issues of equity and class as she goes beyond the surface grossness to talk about the inequities in the past - and today - in who handles our gross jobs, challenges worldwide in creating safe systems for water and sewage, and finishing up with a pointed reminder that these are not issues of the past - US sewers and water systems are in dangerously poor condition in many areas.

Briggs' light-hearted cartoon illustrations, which were also in Virnig's first book, do a great job of adding humor to the story, illustrating some of the grossest moments, and clarifying some of the explanations. The illustrations are in the same tans and grays as the general theme of the text.

Verdict: Funny, gross, informative, and thoughtful, this is the perfect book to hand to budding scientists who aren't afraid to plunge into a stinky subject and digest some big concepts. Recommended.

ISBN: 9781250762351; Published March 2024 by Laura Godwin books; E-galley received via Netgalley; Purchased for the library

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