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About the Book

2019-2020 COMMON READING

Book cover: What the Eyes Don't See by Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, featuring the author in physician coat

What the Eyes Don't See

A Story of Crisis, Resistance, and Hope in an American City

by Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha

New York: One World, 2018
Paperback edition, February 2019
ISBN: 978-0-399-59085-6
364 pages

The definitive first-hand account of the Flint water crisis, which poisoned thousands and left a city without safe water for years, written by the crusading pediatrician at the center of the fight for justice, whom Erin Brockovich named “a true American hero.”

Publisher's Synopsis

What the Eyes Don't See is the inspiring story of how Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, alongside a team of researchers, parents, friends, and community leaders, discovered that the children of Flint, Michigan, were being exposed to lead in their tap water — and then battled her own government and a brutal backlash to expose that truth to the world. Paced like a scientific thriller, What the Eyes Don’t See reveals how misguided austerity policies, broken democracy, and callous bureaucratic indifference placed an entire city at risk. And at the center of the story is Dr. Mona herself—an immigrant, doctor, scientist, and mother whose family’s activist roots inspired her pursuit of justice.

What the Eyes Don’t See is a riveting account of a shameful disaster that became a tale of hope, the story of a city on the ropes that came together to fight for justice, self-determination, and the right to build a better world for their — and all of our — children.

Selected Reviews

“Told with passion and intelligence, What the Eyes Don’t See is an essential text for understanding the full scope of injustice in Flint and the importance of fighting for what’s right.”
Booklist (starred review)

“A clarion call to live a life of purpose.”
The Washington Post

“Gripping…entertaining…. Her book has power precisely because she takes the events she recounts so personally…. Moral outrage present on every page.”
The New York Times Book Review

“A stirring and personal account…. For all her doggedness, Hanna-Attisha is a goofy, appealing, very human narrator…. Hers is the book I’d recommend to those coming to the issue for the first time; the crisis becomes personalized through the stories of her patients and their parents.” 
—Parul Sehgal, The New York Times

“The Iraqi American pediatrician who helped expose the Flint water crisis lays bare the bureaucratic bunk and flat-out injustice at the heart of the environmental disgrace — revealing, with the gripping intrigue of a Grisham thriller, ‘the story of a government poisoning its own citizens, and then lying about it.’”
O: The Oprah Magazine

“It’s one thing to point out a problem. It is another thing altogether to step up and work to fix it. Mona Hanna-Attisha is a true American hero.”
—Erin Brockovich 

“Personal and emotional…. She vividly describes the effects of lead poisoning on her young patients…. She is at her best when recounting the detective work she undertook after a tip-off about lead levels from a friend…. ‛Flint will not be defined by this crisis,’ vows Ms. Hanna-Attisha.”
The Economist

“[A] powerful firsthand account…. Hanna-Attisha’s empathy for her patients and the people of Flint comes through, as do her pride in her Iraqi roots and her persistent optimism…. An inspiring work.”
Publishers Weekly

“Mona Hanna-Attisha’s account of that urban man-made disaster reads both as a detective story and as an exposé of government corruption…. Her book’s message is that we each have the power to fix things, to make the world safer by opening one another’s eyes to problems. Her book reinforced my belief that the first step to becoming a citizen activist is seeing the world as it should be, not as it is given to you.”
The Seattle Times

“Essential for all readers who care about children, health, and the environment. This should be required reading for public servants as an incisive cautionary tale, and for pediatricians and youth advocates as a story of heroism in the ranks of people who have the capacity to make a difference.”
Library Journal (starred review)