Sketches of a Small Town...circa 1940...a memoir

A memoir of growing up in a small Southern town during the Great Depression and World War II by doctor and author Meador (Fascinomas, 2013).
After attending the funeral of John Sherling, one of his two best boyhood friends, Meador realized that the story of his youth in Greenville, Alabama, might be interesting to his descendants, and to general readers. Growing up, he says, he was unaware that some of the people he knew—cross-dressing Juan Carlos, intellectually challenged “Frog,” mother-daughter prostitute team Louise and Pearl, fearless prankster Leon, and his two best friends, Sherling and Charles Chambliss—would be unique characters anywhere, let alone in tiny Greenville, where people were categorized by religion, gas brand preference and men’s-club membership. Some aspects of Greenville life, however, were not at all unique for a Southern town, including the acceptance of racial segregation and the contrast between city and country life. Meador tells the unvarnished truth about his adolescence; he doesn’t try to inflict 21st century sensibilities on his youth, nor does he attempt to prove that his beliefs were significantly different from those of other Alabamians of the time. His younger self’s burgeoning teenage libido also receives extensive attention. At times, however, the book’s remembrances seem emotionally detached, whether due to the passage of years or a deliberate choice. For example, the book mentions the loss of the author’s mother to colon cancer merely as background to other stories, and as the reason he and his father began taking meals at Mrs. Riley’s boardinghouse, when her death was likely a huge, watershed moment in the family’s life. To his credit, however, Meador resists giving in to the nostalgic conceit that life was better when he was young.

A solid, if not emotionally insightful, memoir for fans of stories of the American South, the Great Depression and the homefront of World War II.

Pub Date: June 21, 2014

ISBN: 978-1499174397

Page Count: 188

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: July 29, 2014

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


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...


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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