Gifford skillfully navigates the many strands of aging research to create an entertaining narrative of the perils of getting...

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SPRING CHICKEN

STAY YOUNG FOREVER (OR DIE TRYING)

Examination of the science behind humanity’s obsession with aging and staving off death.

The oldest recorded person was Madame Jeanne Calment, who died in 1997 at the age of 122. She was not exactly an exemplar of good health either; she smoked until she was 117. By contrast, the oldest clam was 507. Can humans learn something about aging from clams? Is it possible to plan for a long life? Those are only some of the questions Outside correspondent Gifford (Ledyard: In Search of the First American Explorer, 2007) tackles in his exploration of not only the health industry’s advancements—e.g., controversial hormone therapies—to prolong life expectancy and reduce the effects of aging, but also the cultural perspectives that underscore the evolutionary drive to live as long and comfortably as possible. The author points out the underlying contradiction that while life expectancy has climbed significantly in recent years, the overall health of the population is getting worse. This conundrum cannot easily be answered, but the ethical quandaries related to these medical advances lead to an alternative argument that there is simply no limit to human life. One particularly fringe idea is parabiosis, or surgically pairing a young body to an old one, thereby “distributing” the youth. Gifford chronicles other seemingly sci-fi techniques that are striving for legitimacy and expertly explains complex science in layman’s terms. He also analyzes studies of Alzheimer’s and other disorders and diseases that cause significant cognitive decline. Perplexing still is the fact that people age differently, and there is no predictor why some people live to be 100 in great physical and mental health while others suffer severe debilities at relatively younger ages. The only reasonable prescription for living a long and healthy life is, somewhat anticlimactically, simply exercising and eating right.

Gifford skillfully navigates the many strands of aging research to create an entertaining narrative of the perils of getting old.

Pub Date: March 17, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4555-2744-1

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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HOW TO BE AN ANTIRACIST

Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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