National Geographic’s ‘Inside the Curve’ Makes Us Wonder Just How Prepared We Are for the Next Health Crisis [REVIEW]

Woman puts a mask on her daughter
Everyone had to adopt a new normal during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by August de Richelieu on

From the time COVID-19 seemed like the rumblings of distant thunder to the moment it arrived on our doorstep as a full-blown health crisis of global proportions, ordinary men and women rose to become heroes throughout the pandemic. We have all heard some of the stories, particularly those that were local, including those about the front-line workers who kept us fed and the first responders and physicians who worked tirelessly to keep us healthy. Now, in National Geographic’s touching and thoughtful new book (Inside the Curve): Stories from the Pandemic, we get the opportunity to meet many of the folks we didn’t hear about. As we learn to embrace our new normal, this volume helps us never forget how far we have come and yet how much further we still have to go.

National Geographic

While the pandemic raged and most of us were sheltered in place, we watched local news reports to stay abreast of what was happening in our own communities to see just how devastating the impact was, where we could get help, and if anything could be done to safeguard ourselves from contracting the deadly virus. Sadly, in many places around the globe, there weren’t enough journalists available to deliver that vital information to the areas they served.

As a result, National Geographic launched the COVID-19 Emergency Fund for Journalists in March 2020 to help storytellers do what they do best: be the catalyst for change. 324 projects were funded in more than 70 countries, and gradually, many of these important stories made their way around the world. One by one, they helped make a difference in the way donations were collected, how relief efforts were executed, and in which policies were made.

In the end, however, few of those things were imprinted on our minds and hearts as indelibly as the human stories were. And yet, no matter how much we may remember, as time passes, memories of both the empathy and compassion shown during the height of the crisis—as well as the very human struggles many faced—can fade with time, especially as other news stories about politics and war fill the media. Inside the Curve helps us remember, and sheds light on new stories and people we didn’t encounter in the moment.

For instance, those of us without children may not have thought much about the impact lockdown had on families. But for those like Espen and Julia Rasmussen in Nesodden, Norway, the order to stay home presented new challenges. Julia was due to have a baby just days after the lockdown was announced. Not only did they have to worry about the delivery of their newborn, but they had to keep their existing children indoors and away from friends. When the baby inevitably came, Julia had to deliver in a hospital full of COVID-19 patients and Espen could only see his child via video chat. Suddenly, isolation had a whole new meaning.

Lockdown also meant that many began working remotely, and the lines between personal and workspaces became blurred as individuals were forced to figure out how to juggle family, employment, education and other personal obligations within the confines of their own homes. Noraney Ocampo, 38, is a middle school teacher in California. She is also a “Dreamer,” one of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients. Like so many educators during lockdown, she could only watch her students graduate on the computer. Meanwhile, more than 200,000 other DACA recipients risked their own health to work at grocery stores and other essential positions.

In France, children with special needs such as Down syndrome faced increased educational inequities. Suddenly, they weren’t able to meet together for classes, and the in-person visual communication, physical stimulation, and social interactions they depend on to thrive and develop was taken away. Thankfully, the government eventually made exceptions for them so they could dance and swim with their teachers and each other.

COVID-19 even changed the way funerals had to be carried out. In Totnes England, Claire Callender was forced to personally lead a funeral service when her 84-year-old mother died of natural causes. Her partner, Ru, helped her prepare to lower the body into the ground as Claire’s father and siblings watched the service over Zoom. Meanwhile, in America’s Navajo Nation, many families lost multiple relatives within days of each other. Overcrowded housing and little access to public utilities and healthcare left the Navajo community highly susceptible to the virus.

Thankfully, not all is lost. In Barcelona, Spain, photographer Daniel Ochoa del Olza documents the happy reunions and public affection people showed one another after more than a year and a half spent social distancing, wearing mandatory face masks, and otherwise isolating to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Couples happily embrace, and even kiss now, at places like the Passeig del Born. This demonstrates the indefatigable power of the human spirit and our unflagging need for human contact.

The stories are countless, and yet each one leaves us that have survived feeling grateful and fortunate. While (Inside the Curve) may admittedly be difficult for many to read, it is an important chronicle to review. Through its candid essays and heart-stirring photography, it makes us keenly aware that when this does happen again (and doctors and scientists say it’s not a matter of if, but when another pandemic comes along), it will have been important for us to examine just what we learned from this experience so that we can all do better next time. But will we? This book is a powerful tool to help keep the conversation going.

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About the author

One of the world’s leading nonfiction publishers, National Geographic has published more than 1,700 titles, featuring such categories as history, travel, nature, photography, space, science, health, biography, and memoir.

A portion of its proceeds is used to fund exploration, conservation, and education through ongoing contributions to the work of the National Geographic Society.

To find out more about Nat Geo, visit, like them on Facebook, or follow them on TwitterInstagram, and Snapchat.

Curated by Claudi Carreras
400 pp. National Geographic. $45.

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Purchase Inside the Curve direct from Jathan & Heather Books or from one of these other fine online retailers: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-A-Million | Half Price Books | Hudson Booksellers | IndieBound | Powell’s | Target | Walmart.

Inside the Curve is brought to you in association with TLC Book Tours.

About Jathan Fink
Jathan is a journalist, philanthropist, and entrepreneur. He is also a travel junkie, foodie and jazz aficionado. A California native, he resides in Texas.

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