American Murderer: The Parasite That Haunted the South (Medical Fiascoes)
American Murderer: The Parasite That Haunted the South (Medical Fiascoes)

American Murderer: The Parasite That Haunted the South (Medical Fiascoes)

By Gail Jarrow

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Ages 10 to 17, Grades 5 to 12

What made workers in the American South so tired and feeble during the 19th and early 20th centuries? This exciting medical mystery uncovers the secrets of the parasite hookworm, commonly known as the “American Murderer,” and is the latest title in Gail Jarrow’s (YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults award-winning author) Medical Fiascoes series.

Imagine microscopic worms living in the soil. They enter your body through your bare feet, travel to your intestines, and stay there for years sucking your blood like vampires. You feel exhausted. You get sick easily. It sounds like a nightmare, but that’s what happened in the American South during the 1800s and early 1900s.


Doctors never guessed that hookworms were making patients ill, but zoologist Charles Stiles knew better. Working with one of the first public health organizations, he and his colleagues treated the sick and showed Southerners how to protect themselves by wearing shoes and using outhouses so that the worms didn’t spread. Although hookworm was eventually controlled in the US, the parasite remains a serious health problem throughout the world. The topic of this STEM book remains relevant and will fascinate readers interested in medicine, science, history—and gross stories about bloodsucking creatures.

Story Locale:The American South

Series Overview: The Medical Fiascoes series examines important moments in 19th and early 20th-century America when medical blunders, ignorance, and inexperience led to suffering and death. With a focus on the individuals at the center of the medical disaster—patients, physicians, scientists—each book reveals the true story behind the heartbreaking events. Yet from these tragedies came advancements in knowledge, paving the way for life-saving treatments, cures, and prevention. Books in the series include Blood and Germs and Ambushed!

About the Author

Gail Jarrow's books have earned a YALSA Award for Excellece in Nonfiction for Young Adults award, Sibert Honor, Orbis Pictus Honor, YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults finalist, a Notable Social Studies Trade Book, NSTA Outstanding Science Trade Book and Best STEM book, The Jefferson Cup Award, a Eureka! Gold Award, as well as Kirkus Reviews and School Library Journal Best Books and VOYA Honor Book distinctions. She lives in Ithaca, New York. Visit

Author Residence: Ithaca, New York

Format: Hardcover

Length: 160 pages

Publisher: Calkins Creek

Publication Date: September 27, 2022

ISBN: 9781684378159

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