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Knowingly and gloriously boastful, but not nearly as entertaining as Djerassi’s earlier memoir, The Pill, Pygmy Chimps, and...

A memoir of the birth control pill’s monumental impact on its creator’s life, as well as a capsule history of the Pill’s development—and a response to those who blame it for various current social woes.

Djerassi (Chemistry/Stanford), whose laboratory at Syntex in Mexico City synthesized the steroid that later became the first oral contraceptive, clarifies the contributions of numerous other scientists to the birth of the Pill, calling himself its mother, Massachusetts-based biologist Gregory Pincus its father, and Harvard endocrinologist John Rock its metaphorical obstetrician. Having settled questions about the Pill’s ancestry, the author turns to the issue of its impact. He looks at the Pill’s acceptance around the world and raises some interesting what-if-it-hadn’t-been-invented questions, but the heart of the matter is how the oral contraceptive changed Djerassi’s own life. It brought him out of the chemistry lab and turned him into a novelist, poet, playwright, and innovative educator; in addition, Syntex stock options made him a wealthy man, enabling him to become an art collector and patron of the arts. Writing two public policy articles on the Pill convinced him that politics, not science, would shape birth control’s future, and he consequently developed courses bridging science and the humanities at Stanford. What he refers to as “this softening of my scientific persona” led Djerassi to seek a wider public for his views, and he describes his subsequent literary career in loving detail, illustrating his account with examples from his work. An autobiographical poem serves as the book’s abstract (scientific papers have one, so why not this?), and the text is laden with excerpts from his poems, short stories, “science-in-fiction” novels (NO, 1998, etc.) and “science-in-theater” dramas. Djerassi clearly takes great pride in his accomplishments, not least the founding of a thriving artists’ colony near Palo Alto.

Knowingly and gloriously boastful, but not nearly as entertaining as Djerassi’s earlier memoir, The Pill, Pygmy Chimps, and Degas’ Horse (1992).

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2001

ISBN: 0-19-850872-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2001

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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