A sympathetic portrait of Mexican-American feminism (both in mother and daughter) delivered in a poignant, beautifully...

NATIVE COUNTRY OF THE HEART

A MEMOIR

A queer Latina feminist focuses on her ferocious, survivor mother from Tijuana.

In her moving portrait, Moraga (English/Univ. of California, Santa Barbara; A Xicana Codex of Changing Consciousness: Writings, 2000-2010, 2011, etc.), the founder of Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press, examines her close but tortured relationship with her now-deceased mother. Elvira Isabel Moraga, who came of age in Tijuana’s golden era in the 1920s, “was not the stuff of literature.” The daughter of an “illusive trickster who shuttle[d] between worlds” and “rode the counterfeit borders of the Southwest with a vaquero flare of Mexican independence and macho bravado,” Elvira and her numerous siblings, born on the American side of the border, were hired out by their father for menial labor, essentially limiting her education (“her inability to read and write well remained an open wound”). As a teenager, Elvira secured work until the mid-1930s as a hat-check–and-cigarette girl at a high-stakes gambling room in Tijuana, eluding the advances of the casino's predatory owner. Ultimately, she met and married a man named Joseph, a “functionary” who operated the South Pasadena Santa Fe Railroad station. Together, they and their children moved east of Los Angeles, embracing the suburban dream that characterized much of post–World War II America. Born in 1952, author Moraga offers mesmerizing details of growing up there and in San Gabriel, a mixed-race community, near her grandmother, who served as the locus of myriad visits by relatives. Coming to terms with her sexuality during a progressive social era almost derailed the author’s relationship with her strict, volatile mother, but in the end, her mother assured her, “how could you think that there is anything in this life you could do that you wouldn’t be my daughter?” The author’s determination to learn Spanish and visit Mexico helped the two bond in her mother’s later years, which were marked by Alzheimer’s.

A sympathetic portrait of Mexican-American feminism (both in mother and daughter) delivered in a poignant, beautifully written way.

Pub Date: April 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-374-21966-6

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Jan. 3, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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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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A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

INTO THE WILD

The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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