Bracingly intimate and heartfelt.



A moving account of educator and Holocaust survivor Laughlin's experiences living in the Warsaw Ghetto and later, two concentration camps in the north and south of Poland.

After the Germans marched into Warsaw in 1939, the author’s charmed life came to a sudden end. Soldiers immediately forced Jews "to surrender furs, paintings, jewelry and currency to pay for the war…[they] were accused of starting.” Within months, the invaders forced Warsaw citizens to move into Christian and Jewish-only sectors. The latter, known as the Warsaw Ghetto, became Laughlin's home until the uprising of 1943. Then, she, her mother and her sister were separated from her father and sent away to Skarzysko, in northern Poland, and then Czestochowa in the south, both slave labor camps that forced inmates to produce ammunition for the Nazi war machine. With heart-wrenching clarity, Laughlin recalls the "lines of giant, thundering machines with turning turbines tended by sallow, emaciated people" and the deprivation and personal degradation she, her family and other Jews endured on a daily basis. Even after they walked out of Czestochowa after liberation in early 1945, they struggled to survive. Relying on the kindness of strangers, the trio wandered from city to city, eventually reuniting with relatives and other fellow survivors and beginning to heal, a process that for Laughlin and her family would include becoming American citizens. Through her many trials, Laughlin came to understand that the pain she and her community had suffered was not one-sided. Many innocent Germans had also been condemned to concentration camps or had been expelled from territories reclaimed by Poland and Czechoslovakia. But even more profoundly, she realized that because both Germans and Jews had experienced the Holocaust together as victimizer and victim, both were bound to each other forever, "condemned to relive the shared past a thousand times; one to soothe his conscience, the other to soothe his pain.”

Bracingly intimate and heartfelt.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-89672-767-0

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Texas Tech Univ. Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 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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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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