WEATHERING

THE EXTRAORDINARY STRESS OF ORDINARY LIFE IN AN UNJUST SOCIETY

A compelling contribution to the literature on the important issue of health care inequity.

How systemic oppression erodes the health of members of marginalized communities.

Geronimus, a professor of public health, coined the term weathering to describe the decline in health and life expectancy that results from repeated or sustained activation of physiological stress responses. In this insightful and well-argued book, the author contends that the physiological effects of living in marginalized communities, often caused by racial, ethnic, religious, and class discrimination, play a more significant role in the health of its members than genetics or lifestyle choices. Geronimus also looks at the concept of “age-washing,” which describes a way of thinking that ignores the effects of systemic problems on the health of marginalized individuals and attempts to place the cause elsewhere, leading to the proliferation of the "blame narrative." The author bases her findings on three decades of research, including her own, some of which has contradicted conventional thinking. Though she considered writing a book about weathering for nearly her entire career, she was “stopped cold” and called to action when she learned about shocking increases in mortality rates, “in particular preventable deaths of Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and rural white mothers,” over the same time period. With health inequalities not only remaining entrenched, but continuing to rise in the past 30 years, the author seeks to “spark new narratives and new understandings that will pave the way to new paths toward achieving health equity.” In that, she succeeds, and the text benefits from the author’s inclusion of stories of individuals who have experienced firsthand the effects of weathering, including those of her own family as descendants of Eastern European Jewish immigrants. In the hard-driving second part of the book, Geronimus provides suggestions to create a new path forward, creating action items for readers truly interested in doing something about “racialized injustice and the weathering it causes.”

A compelling contribution to the literature on the important issue of health care inequity.

Pub Date: March 28, 2023

ISBN: 9780316257978

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Little, Brown Spark

Review Posted Online: Jan. 10, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2023

THE IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS

Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and...

A dense, absorbing investigation into the medical community's exploitation of a dying woman and her family's struggle to salvage truth and dignity decades later.

In a well-paced, vibrant narrative, Popular Science contributor and Culture Dish blogger Skloot (Creative Writing/Univ. of Memphis) demonstrates that for every human cell put under a microscope, a complex life story is inexorably attached, to which doctors, researchers and laboratories have often been woefully insensitive and unaccountable. In 1951, Henrietta Lacks, an African-American mother of five, was diagnosed with what proved to be a fatal form of cervical cancer. At Johns Hopkins, the doctors harvested cells from her cervix without her permission and distributed them to labs around the globe, where they were multiplied and used for a diverse array of treatments. Known as HeLa cells, they became one of the world's most ubiquitous sources for medical research of everything from hormones, steroids and vitamins to gene mapping, in vitro fertilization, even the polio vaccine—all without the knowledge, must less consent, of the Lacks family. Skloot spent a decade interviewing every relative of Lacks she could find, excavating difficult memories and long-simmering outrage that had lay dormant since their loved one's sorrowful demise. Equal parts intimate biography and brutal clinical reportage, Skloot's graceful narrative adeptly navigates the wrenching Lack family recollections and the sobering, overarching realities of poverty and pre–civil-rights racism. The author's style is matched by a methodical scientific rigor and manifest expertise in the field.

Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and Petri dish politics.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4000-5217-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2010

BEYOND THE GENDER BINARY

From the Pocket Change Collective series

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change.

Artist and activist Vaid-Menon demonstrates how the normativity of the gender binary represses creativity and inflicts physical and emotional violence.

The author, whose parents emigrated from India, writes about how enforcement of the gender binary begins before birth and affects people in all stages of life, with people of color being especially vulnerable due to Western conceptions of gender as binary. Gender assignments create a narrative for how a person should behave, what they are allowed to like or wear, and how they express themself. Punishment of nonconformity leads to an inseparable link between gender and shame. Vaid-Menon challenges familiar arguments against gender nonconformity, breaking them down into four categories—dismissal, inconvenience, biology, and the slippery slope (fear of the consequences of acceptance). Headers in bold font create an accessible navigation experience from one analysis to the next. The prose maintains a conversational tone that feels as intimate and vulnerable as talking with a best friend. At the same time, the author's turns of phrase in moments of deep insight ring with precision and poetry. In one reflection, they write, “the most lethal part of the human body is not the fist; it is the eye. What people see and how people see it has everything to do with power.” While this short essay speaks honestly of pain and injustice, it concludes with encouragement and an invitation into a future that celebrates transformation.

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change. (writing prompt) (Nonfiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-09465-5

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: March 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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