Despite flaws, a valuable primary-source recollection from an incendiary time.

JUST ANOTHER NIGGER

MY LIFE IN THE BLACK PANTHER PARTY

An unapologetic firsthand account of the Black Panthers during their turbulent prime.

Cox’s memoir, written in the early 1980s and posthumously published, provides a plainspoken account of a transformative moment in history and Cox’s own journey from commercial photographer to committed revolutionary. His daughter Kimberly Cox Marshall provides a loving foreword (“Daddy, I kept the title you wanted”), and publisher Steve Wasserman offers further context in his introduction, describing the author’s work “as Field Marshal in charge of weapons procurement, gunrunning, and planning armed attacks and defense” as well as “his star turn as a party spokesman raising money at the Manhattan home of Leonard Bernstein.” Cox recalls a taste for nonconformity from an upbringing in Missouri and California, but his radicalism coincided with the 1965 Watts uprising. “I admit to having felt joy—joy and pride at seeing blacks finally saying, with their actions, that they were fed up.” In 1967, he positively impressed founding Black Panthers David Hilliard and Huey Newton, and he discloses early plans for ambushes of police to serve as a blow against race-based brutality. The group seemed both righteous and practical in their outlook, but circumstances spiraled out of control following violent skirmishes and Newton’s arrest. With key leaders in jail or killed in police shootouts, surviving members pursued a Marxist-Leninist ideology of rigid purification. Cox documents plenty of internecine drama as he rose through the ranks, culminating in his visit to the fugitive Eldridge Cleaver, who “told me [Hilliard] had sent me to Algiers for them to kill me!” About his 1972 resignation, the author ruefully concludes, “many of the conspiracy cases brought against the party were due to our own mistakes and excessive zeal whenever a police agent was discovered in our ranks.” The narrative is intimate and exciting, although Cox seems too close to events: He elides some peoples’ identities and makes arcane references to late-1960s radicalism, such as the conflict between the Panthers and black nationalists.

Despite flaws, a valuable primary-source recollection from an incendiary time.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-59714-459-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Heyday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 9, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 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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