A profoundly human book that touches readers with a rare and healing candor.

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NOT THE LAST GOODBYE

ON LIFE, DEATH, HEALING, AND CANCER

With poignant simplicity and heartbreaking humility, recently deceased psychiatrist Servan-Schreiber (Anticancer: A New Way of Life, 2008, etc.) recounts the events of the year preceding his final battle with brain cancer.

In June 2010, the author received the news that a “gigantic, vein-filled mass” had taken over his frontal lobe, the region that had been operated on twice nearly 20 years before. He knew this tumor presaged his death; at the same time, his “desire to live was very much intact, as was my determination.” Rather than falling into despair, Servan-Schreiber faced his many rounds of hospitalization, surgery and radiation treatment with courageous resolve. He also continued to adhere to the regimen of “physical exercise, yoga, meditation” that he propounded in the international bestseller Anticancer, and took full responsibility for having disregarded a key part of his own treatment plan: stress management. Servan-Schreiber never stopped believing in the value of his holistic approaches, despite his relapse: “The fact that I have lived all these years with such an aggressive form of cancer…is enough to support the idea that it was within my power to contribute positively to my health.” As his disease progressed and he drew closer to death, which occurred in July 2011, the psychiatrist turned his thoughts toward “dying well.” That meant getting his affairs in order and, more importantly, saying goodbye to friends and family, forgiving others and seeking forgiveness. For the author, dying was not an inevitable fate that would separate him from the life he so loved. Rather, it was a gift that allowed him to cultivate inner peace and forge even closer ties with those who mattered most.

A profoundly human book that touches readers with a rare and healing candor.

Pub Date: Nov. 21, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-670-02591-6

Page Count: 168

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Nov. 6, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2011

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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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