A moving exploration of an unthinkable trespass against an innocent man.

THE ORGAN THIEVES

THE SHOCKING STORY OF THE FIRST HEART TRANSPLANT IN THE SEGREGATED SOUTH

Another sad tale of virulent racism—this time involving the medical community—at the height of the civil rights movement.

Jones is a Pulitzer Prize–nominated journalist with deep roots in Virginia’s still-divided communities, so the reportage is unsurprisingly solid, and the depths and repercussions of the story he discovered are startling. The author takes the time to put the history of organ transplants and their various failures and successes into context before he arrives at the pivotal event of his narrative. In May 1968, African American factory worker Bruce Tucker fell off a brick wall and fractured his skull. Brought to the Medical College of Virginia’s emergency room, Tucker was found to have suffered a grave injury. This caught the attention of Drs. David Hume and Richard Lower, who made the decision to take Tucker’s heart and transplant it into Joseph Klett, a white businessman with severe heart disease. From here, the story morphs into something of a sociological mystery. Tucker’s family discovered his organs were missing at the funeral home, dogged reporters attempted to chase down the facts, and hospital staff and administrators wrestled with the ethics of what they had done. There was also a hotly contested legal battle that emerged when Tucker’s family sued the hospital, igniting a face-off between Jack Russell, known for “defending physicians named in medical malpractice suits,” and Doug Wilder, the Tucker family’s attorney and “one of the best-known African American trial lawyers practicing in the state capital.” This is a powerful story that examines institutional racism, mortality, medical ethics, and the nature of justice for black men living in the American South. The author also offers two chilling codas, one involving the discovery of a mass grave and the other chronicling his search for Tucker’s son some 50 years later.

A moving exploration of an unthinkable trespass against an innocent man.

Pub Date: Aug. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-982107-52-9

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Jeter Publishing/Gallery Books

Review Posted Online: April 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

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A lucid (in the sky with diamonds) look at the hows, whys, and occasional demerits of altering one’s mind.

THIS IS YOUR MIND ON PLANTS

Building on his lysergically drenched book How to Change Your Mind (2018), Pollan looks at three plant-based drugs and the mental effects they can produce.

The disastrous war on drugs began under Nixon to control two classes of perceived enemies: anti-war protestors and Black citizens. That cynical effort, writes the author, drives home the point that “societies condone the mind-changing drugs that help uphold society’s rule and ban the ones that are seen to undermine it.” One such drug is opium, for which Pollan daringly offers a recipe for home gardeners to make a tea laced with the stuff, producing “a radical and by no means unpleasant sense of passivity.” You can’t overthrow a government when so chilled out, and the real crisis is the manufacture of synthetic opioids, which the author roundly condemns. Pollan delivers a compelling backstory: This section dates to 1997, but he had to leave portions out of the original publication to keep the Drug Enforcement Administration from his door. Caffeine is legal, but it has stronger effects than opium, as the author learned when he tried to quit: “I came to see how integral caffeine is to the daily work of knitting ourselves back together after the fraying of consciousness during sleep.” Still, back in the day, the introduction of caffeine to the marketplace tempered the massive amounts of alcohol people were drinking even though a cup of coffee at noon will keep banging on your brain at midnight. As for the cactus species that “is busy transforming sunlight into mescaline right in my front yard”? Anyone can grow it, it seems, but not everyone will enjoy effects that, in one Pollan experiment, “felt like a kind of madness.” To his credit, the author also wrestles with issues of cultural appropriation, since in some places it’s now easier for a suburbanite to grow San Pedro cacti than for a Native American to use it ceremonially.

A lucid (in the sky with diamonds) look at the hows, whys, and occasional demerits of altering one’s mind.

Pub Date: July 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-29690-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2021

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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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