Each day leading up to the 2019 Minnesota Book Awards Ceremony, we’ll be featuring an exclusive interview with one of our 36 finalists. Learn more about these incredible local writers and gear up to see the winners announced live in person April 6.
Interview with Maya Dusenbery, author of Doing Harm: The Truth About How Bad Medicine and Lazy Science Leave Women Dismissed, Misdiagnosed, and Sick
Category: General Nonfiction, sponsored by College of Saint Benedict/Saint John’s University
How does it feel to be a Minnesota Book Award finalist?
I’m thrilled! I’m from St. Paul but have mostly lived elsewhere since college. I moved back during the two years I was working intensively on Doing Harm and wrote most of it during long days camped out at my local coffee shop (shout-out to Groundswell!) in the neighborhood where I grew up. So I’ll always associate writing this book with getting reacquainted with the Twin Cities.
Tell us something about your finalist book that you want readers to know.
Doing Harm explores gender bias in medicine and how it’s leading to sub-par medical care for women. I think it will resonate with all too many women who have had frustrating experiences in the medical system—who have felt that their symptoms weren’t taken seriously or struggled to find the care they needed. But I hope even readers who don’t (yet) have any personal knowledge of the problem will check it out. Most of us will become patients at some point in our lives, and I think it’s important for all women—and anyone who cares about a woman—to be aware of the biases and systemic problems that can affect the health care they receive. I also think the book is an essential, thought-provoking read for health care providers and others in the biomedical fields.
Let us know a little bit about your writing life. What brought you to a writing career and how did you become a published author?
As my dad likes to remind me, I actually first became a
published Minnesota author at age ten, when my story was chosen for Half Price
Books’ “Say Goodnight to Illiteracy” bedtime story contest. My
non-fiction career began after college, when I was working at a reproductive
health non-profit and started blogging about feminist issues on the side. I
eventually decided that I wanted to write full-time and did a fellowship at Mother
Jones magazine to get some training in reporting and research. I’ve been a
freelance journalist ever since. Doing Harm is my first book, and it was
a challenge to go from mostly pretty short-form writing to working on a book.
But I learned a lot and was glad for the chance to really dig deep on the
What is something you are good at that few people know about?
I’ve become pretty good at making sourdough bread. I got into it when I first began working as a freelancer. I think it’s a great hobby for writers (or anyone who works from home) because it provides some structure to your days and gets you up from the computer at regular intervals.
What do you love about libraries?
I love the consistency of libraries. In a media landscape that’s ever-changing, with so many players constantly experimenting with new media and new financial models, I love that libraries keep offering the same simple and radical service they’ve been at forever: giving people free access to books.
About Maya Dusenbery
Maya Dusenbery is a journalist, editor, and author of the book Doing Harm: The Truth About How Bad Medicine and Lazy Science Leave Women Dismissed, Misdiagnosed, and Sick. A New York Times Editors’ Choice pick, Doing Harm was named one of the best books of 2018 by NPR and Library Journal. Maya is editorial director of the trailblazing site Feministing.com and was formerly a fellow at Mother Jones magazine and a columnist at Pacific Standard. She has written for outlets like Slate, Cosmopolitan, HuffPost, The Atlantic, and Teen Vogue, among others, and contributed to the anthology The Feminist Utopia Project. A Minnesota native, she received her B.A. from Carleton College in 2008.