An impassioned plea for understanding and a good layman’s guide to the current state of the AIDS crisis.




The legendary entertainer shares the story of how he created the Elton John AIDS Foundation, which works to fund initiatives for prevention, outreach and treatment.

In 1985, a depressed and drug-addicted John read a magazine article about Ryan White, the teenager who had contracted HIV through a tainted blood transfusion. Inspired by White’s optimism in the face of overwhelming prejudice, John befriended the boy and his family. After White died of AIDS in 1990, John had an epiphany. He checked into rehab, got clean and set out to rectify the mistakes he had made during the 1980s, a decade that had witnessed the emergence of AIDS and the ensuing stigma surrounding it. With the support of fellow AIDS activist and gay rights supporter Elizabeth Taylor, he launched EJAF, first in the United States and then in the U.K. EJAF has not only funded programs in the West, but has also partnered with organizations in countries that face particularly daunting challenges such as homelessness (Ukraine), extreme poverty (Haiti) and high incidences of rape (South Africa). John’s commitment to tolerance and compassion shines through this testimonial, even as he relays his anger at governments that have either ignored the AIDS crisis or condemned their HIV-positive constituents. The author saves most of his justifiable ire for Bayer, which sold contaminated blood-clotting drugs overseas to save money, and for the Catholic Church, which continues to censure condom use. Still, many of the stories he recounts are uplifting, including that of Simelela, the first health clinic in South Africa to address the struggles of rape victims, and Project FIRST, the New York City–based program that supports former prisoners with HIV. John even relays a surprisingly heartwarming anecdote about meeting with George W. Bush, whose administration established the largest federally funded disease initiative in history.

An impassioned plea for understanding and a good layman’s guide to the current state of the AIDS crisis.

Pub Date: July 17, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-316-21990-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: July 31, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2012

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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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An absorbing, wide-ranging story of humans’ relationship with the water.


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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