They Leave Their Kidneys in the Fields takes the reader on an ethnographic tour of the melon and corn harvesting fields in California’s Central Valley to understand why farmworkers suffer heatstroke at a rate higher than workers in any other industry. Although state officials and the media tend to portray the disproportionate number of heat deaths among farmworkers as a matter merely of rising temperatures, Horton shows that labor, immigration, health care, disability, and industry food safety policies place Latino migrant farmworkers in harm’s way. Laden with captivating detail of farmworkers’ daily work and home lives, this book examines how U.S. immigration policy and the historic exclusion of farmworkers from the promises of liberalism has forced migrant farmworkers to be what Horton calls “exceptional workers.” She explores the social, political, and legal factors that place Latino migrants at particular risk of illness and injury in the fields, as well as the patchwork of health care, disability, and Social Security policies that provide them little succor when they become sick or grow old. By following the lives of a core group of farmworkers over nearly a decade, Horton provides a searing portrait of how their precarious immigration and work statuses get under their skin, culminating in preventable morbidity and premature death.

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