A charming tale of a resilient donkey and a community’s love.

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RUNNING WITH SHERMAN

THE DONKEY WITH THE HEART OF A HERO

An abused animal gets a new life.

Raised in captivity by a man who could not care for the animals he hoarded, one donkey was left in shocking condition. When McDougall (Natural Born Heroes: How a Daring Band of Misfits Mastered the Lost Secrets of Strength and Endurance, 2015, etc.) first saw the animal, he could hardly believe his eyes: Penned in a cramped stall, mired knee-deep in manure, it had hooves so neglected and overgrown that it could hardly walk. “His muscles were withered,” writes the author, “his body was sagging and soft, his trust was severely damaged if not altogether lost.” McDougall agreed to take the donkey—renamed Sherman—to his home in rural Pennsylvania, but he had little hope that the animal would live. Equines need to walk in order for their intestines to digest food; if they are hobbled, McDougall learned, “waste matter blocks their guts until the animal is torn apart from the inside.” Fortunately for Sherman, the author was surrounded by caring neighbors who swooped in to help. One amateur horseman sawed off Sherman’s excess hooves; his wife, who raised donkeys, horses, a goat, and a pig, sheered away matted fur and gave the animal a thorough shampoo. She also advised that the donkey needed to have a job—a sense of purpose. For McDougall, that had to involve movement, which he believed was “big medicine; it’s the signal to every cell in our bodies that no matter what kind of damage we’ve suffered, we’re ready to rebuild and move away from death and back toward life.” Like humans, the author discovered, animals “are hungry for a challenge.” Against great odds, he decided to train Sherman to enter a world championship burro race. Sherman’s transformation from dying donkey to confident runner involved a circle of family, friends, neighbors, and a few feisty donkeys, each of whom McDougall portrays in affectionate, vivid detail. For several of them, suffering from their own emotional pain and trauma, Sherman proved a source of solace and support.

A charming tale of a resilient donkey and a community’s love.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5247-3236-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 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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Jahren transcends both memoir and science writing in this literary fusion of both genres.

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LAB GIRL

Award-winning scientist Jahren (Geology and Geophysics/Univ. of Hawaii) delivers a personal memoir and a paean to the natural world.

The author’s father was a physics and earth science teacher who encouraged her play in the laboratory, and her mother was a student of English literature who nurtured her love of reading. Both of these early influences engrossingly combine in this adroit story of a dedication to science. Jahren’s journey from struggling student to struggling scientist has the narrative tension of a novel and characters she imbues with real depth. The heroes in this tale are the plants that the author studies, and throughout, she employs her facility with words to engage her readers. We learn much along the way—e.g., how the willow tree clones itself, the courage of a seed’s first root, the symbiotic relationship between trees and fungi, and the airborne signals used by trees in their ongoing war against insects. Trees are of key interest to Jahren, and at times she waxes poetic: “Each beginning is the end of a waiting. We are each given exactly one chance to be. Each of us is both impossible and inevitable. Every replete tree was first a seed that waited.” The author draws many parallels between her subjects and herself. This is her story, after all, and we are engaged beyond expectation as she relates her struggle in building and running laboratory after laboratory at the universities that have employed her. Present throughout is her lab partner, a disaffected genius named Bill, whom she recruited when she was a graduate student at Berkeley and with whom she’s worked ever since. The author’s tenacity, hope, and gratitude are all evident as she and Bill chase the sweetness of discovery in the face of the harsh economic realities of the research scientist.

Jahren transcends both memoir and science writing in this literary fusion of both genres.

Pub Date: April 5, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-101-87493-6

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Jan. 5, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2016

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