AS REAL AS IT GETS

THE LIFE OF A HOSPITAL AT THE CENTER OF THE AIDS EPIDEMIC

The human story of AIDS, told through profiles of doctors, nurses, and patients at San Francisco General—one of the first hospitals to feel the impact of the epidemic, and a pacesetter in AIDS care. Pogash, a former columnist and reporter for the San Francisco Examiner, has chosen a varied assortment of characters- -doctors who disagree vociferously with one another about the risks to health-care workers and the right to test patients for HIV; a young nurse who becomes HIV-positive after an accidental needle-jab and who struggles to protect her anonymity while battling the bureaucracy for compensation; a gay male nurse whose burdensome task is to select subjects for a research study on a potent new drug; former prostitutes and drug users whose street smarts make them invaluable outreach workers in a study of women at risk for AIDS. Then there are the patients, at first mostly middle-class, white, young, articulate, and cooperative—men with whom doctors and nurses find it relatively easy to empathize. But as the epidemic spreads to IV-drug users and their sex partners, health-care workers encounter a different culture whose hostility and violence make care more difficult. Pogash identifies all the doctors and nurses (except for the nurse accidentally stricken with AIDS) but uses pseudonyms for the patients. The profiles, often necessarily sketchy, introduce many of the troubling issues surrounding AIDS: What are the risks to and responsibilities of health-care workers? What are the rights of patients? How should new drugs be tested? What are the responsibilities of society to the terminally ill? Pogash provides no answers but shows real people struggling with the questions. An easily read, anecdotal approach that succeeds in delineating and dramatizing many of the ethical problems posed by the AIDS epidemic.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1992

ISBN: 1-55972-127-8

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Birch Lane Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1992

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

THE IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS

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

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An absorbing, wide-ranging story of humans’ relationship with the water.

WHY WE SWIM

A study of swimming as sport, survival method, basis for community, and route to physical and mental well-being.

For Bay Area writer Tsui (American Chinatown: A People's History of Five Neighborhoods, 2009), swimming is in her blood. As she recounts, her parents met in a Hong Kong swimming pool, and she often visited the beach as a child and competed on a swim team in high school. Midway through the engaging narrative, the author explains how she rejoined the team at age 40, just as her 6-year-old was signing up for the first time. Chronicling her interviews with scientists and swimmers alike, Tsui notes the many health benefits of swimming, some of which are mental. Swimmers often achieve the “flow” state and get their best ideas while in the water. Her travels took her from the California coast, where she dove for abalone and swam from Alcatraz back to San Francisco, to Tokyo, where she heard about the “samurai swimming” martial arts tradition. In Iceland, she met Guðlaugur Friðþórsson, a local celebrity who, in 1984, survived six hours in a winter sea after his fishing vessel capsized, earning him the nickname “the human seal.” Although humans are generally adapted to life on land, the author discovered that some have extra advantages in the water. The Bajau people of Indonesia, for instance, can do 10-minute free dives while hunting because their spleens are 50% larger than average. For most, though, it’s simply a matter of practice. Tsui discussed swimming with Dara Torres, who became the oldest Olympic swimmer at age 41, and swam with Kim Chambers, one of the few people to complete the daunting Oceans Seven marathon swim challenge. Drawing on personal experience, history, biology, and social science, the author conveys the appeal of “an unflinching giving-over to an element” and makes a convincing case for broader access to swimming education (372,000 people still drown annually).

An absorbing, wide-ranging story of humans’ relationship with the water.

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-61620-786-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: Jan. 5, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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