ADDRESSES: Agent—c/o Author Mail, Scribner Publicity Department, Simon & Schuster, Inc., 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020.
CAREER: New England Monthly, executive editor; People, senior editor; Life, senior editor; Men's Journal, editor-at-large; Outside, deputy editor.
The Colony: The Harrowing True Story of the Exiles of Molokai, Scribner (New York, NY), 2005.
Author of "Wheels" column for Business 2.0; contributor to periodicals, including Gentleman's Quarterly, Men's Health, Spy, and Worth.
SIDELIGHTS: John Tayman has been responsible for the editorial content of several major magazines and is also a writer and columnist. His first book, The Colony: The Harrowing True Story of the Exiles of Molokai, is a history of the leper colony established in 1866 on the Hawaiian island of Molokai. Tayman draws on journals, letters, medical records, newspaper articles, and personal interviews in writing about the forced quarantine of the victims of leprosy. At the time, leprosy was thought to be highly infectious, although in fact the disease that leads to disfigurement is caused by a bacteria that infects only those with genetic susceptibility.
Leprosy probably came to the Hawaiian Islands early in the nineteenth century, but after the smallpox epidemic of 1853 killed a large number of islanders, King Kamehameha V and the board of health moved to protect the islands' citizens. Those afflicted with the disease were treated as criminals, shipped to Molokai, and provided with little to sustain them and no medical care. Conditions improved by the 1880s, according to the reports of observers like Robert Louis Stevenson. Tayman studies the cases of people who were mistakenly diagnosed and sent to Molokai and documents the work of Father Damien, the Flemish priest who contracted leprosy and died on Molokai in 1889. The Colony also includes the testimony of survivors who were sent to Molokai as children.
A Kirkus Reviews contributor wrote that Tayman "hauntingly depicts the devastation of an ill-understood disease and helps demystify its victims, too often viewed as 'sinful, shameful, and unclean.'" Booklist reviewer Kristine Huntley described The Colony as "an utterly engrossing look at a heartbreaking chapter in Hawaiian history."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, November 1, 2005, Kristine Huntley, review of The Colony: The Harrowing True Story of the Exiles of Molokai, p. 10.
Kirkus Review, October 1, 2005, review of The Colony, p. 1071.
Publishers Weekly, September 12, 2005, review of The Colony, p. 52.