VENUS ENVY

A HISTORY OF COSMETIC SURGERY

An entertaining and enlightening history of how the practice of cosmetic surgery has been shaped by the priorities and demands of 20th-century American culture as much as by those of the medical profession. To characterize the shift in American attitudes toward cosmetic surgery, Haiken (History/Univ. of Tennessee) notes that when Fanny Brice had her nose bobbed in the 1920s, Americans asked why, whereas in the 1960s, when Barbra Streisand didn't, they asked why not. Haiken's history is full of anecdotes about surgeons and patients, excerpts from the popular press, especially women's magazines, and quotes from the medical literature. It is also extensively illustrated with movie and television stills, cartoons, before-and-after photos, and advertisements—including an astonishing one for a ``Homely Girl Contest'' run by the New York Daily Mirror in 1924. Haiken details how this field of surgery developed after WW I, the attempts of the American Board of Plastic Surgery to control its practice, and the discovery by surgeons that prosperity lay not in reconstructive but in purely cosmetic surgery. She reveals how surgeons who were reluctant to be linked to ``beauty'' doctors found medical justification for cosmetic procedures in psychology: They were curing inferiority complexes caused by patients' perceived imperfections. While facial surgery receives the greater part of Haiken's attention, she also gives a brief history of breast surgery and touches on liposuction and penile enhancement. Perhaps most interesting is her discussion of the use of plastic surgery to conceal or minimize physical signs of ethnicity. Using Michael Jackson as a case in point, she demonstrates the desire of many members of minority groups to conform to narrow American ideals of beauty. A warts-and-all portrait of a medical speciality that still evokes ambivalence in individuals and in the culture at large.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-8018-5763-5

Page Count: 370

Publisher: Johns Hopkins Univ.

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1997

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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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