‘History Matters’ talk will feature book discussion with ‘Clara’s Rib’ author

SARANAC LAKE – On May 23, Historic Saranac Lake will host the third installment of its May seminar series, featuring a book discussion with Anne Raina, the author of “Clara’s Rib.”

The true story of a young girl coming of age in a tuberculosis hospital in Ottawa, Canada in the late 1940s and ’50s, the book is of particular interest to local residents because of Saranac Lake’s unique history as a tuberculosis treatment center.

Anne Raina, a native of Ottawa, will speak at the Saranac Laboratory Museum, 89 Church St. at 7 p.m. Thursday, May 23.

The talk is free and open to the public. Light refreshments will be provided.

Anne comes from a family that was ravaged by tuberculosis). She is the youngest of 10 children, seven of whom spent years in the Royal Ottawa Sanatorium (“the San”) for the treatment of TB in the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s.

Her father entered the San when she was six and he died of TB shortly after Anne turned eight. The eldest Raina child, John, died at age 18 of tuberculosis and the youngest boy, Billy, died at age four of TB meningitis. Other siblings, Mary, Ralph, Clara, George and Jim were also afflicted with the disease.

Anne’s sister, Clara, entered the San in 1939 when she was 12 and was discharged for the final time in 1952 when she was 26. During her years in the San, Clara kept comprehensive daily diary notes.

Thirty-four years ago, she drafted a manuscript based on those notes and focusing on her years growing up in the San.

Shortly before her death in 1998 she entrusted Anne with her diaries and all her notes. This precious gift to Anne came with no strings attached. Clara had no expectations for Anne to do

anything with the material. Anne, however, believing it was a story that should be told, promised Clara that one day she would publish the story.

At the time, Anne had been struck with multiple disabling autoimmune conditions and it was not until late 2010 that she could bring her promise to fruition. Anne explains that she has experienced myriad emotions in co-authoring “Clara’s Rib” with her sister and friend Clara, who was 17 years older than her.

She says she is humbled and overwhelmed by the response to “Clara’s Rib.” She has a full schedule of speaking events, including presentations to historical societies, faith communities, medical and health professionals, libraries, community groups, book clubs and schools. She recently was invited to address the first and second year medical students at Ottawa University and was a keynote speaker at a large two-day TB conference in November 2012, presented by the Ontario Lung Association. Two hundred and fifty doctors and health care providers were in attendance.

Anne says the book has garnered wide interest from pre-teens through the spectrum of ages to the most senior of seniors.

Wide-reaching coverage from the media via newspaper, radio and TV interviews has been gratifying. The media refer to Clara’s Rib as both timely and timeless, particularly with tuberculosis still a world-wide pandemic.

Anne credits her parents for passing on to each of their children a faith and strength that played a significant role in all their lives.