JENNIFER AND HER SELVES

In a dramatized version of one of his earliest cases, psychotherapist Schoenewolf reveals the complicated relationship that developed between himself as an inexperienced therapist and ``Jennifer,'' a beautiful young patient with multiple personality disorder. Schoenewolf admits to ``occasional literary enhancements'' and ``a degree of license in order to heighten the impact'' of his account; this may be an understatement. Liberties have definitely been taken with form—Part III of the story is presented as a diary kept by Jennifer and her alter personalities during the final month of her brief therapy with Schoenewolf—and perhaps with substance, as Schoenewolf insists that as Jennifer's different personalities emerge, ``not only is her personality different, but even the shape of her body and face.'' Jennifer, the core personality, is a suicidal and depressive dancer whose other selves are frightened six-year-old Jenny; angry ten-year- old Tom; promiscuous Jess; hostile, competitive Margaret; mature, confident Mildred; and formal, stiff Mary. Schoenewolf quickly learns how each is a response to a specific traumatic event in Jennifer's life, and in an astonishingly short time encourages them to become part of Jennifer's conscious mind as a first step toward integration. He attributes this amazing outcome to his ``unusually intimate working alliance'' with his patient. As Jennifer moves toward health, however, Schoenewolf finds himself out of his depth, spending days fantasizing about her, even imagining marriage to her, yet finding her an unbearable burden. Ultimately, he recognizes that he lacks the skills and objectivity to continue and refers her to another therapist. Good material for a TV soap opera, perhaps, but suffering from too few details of the therapy, rather textbook-like discussions of multiple personality disorder, and flat, unconvincing recollections of emotions.

Pub Date: Sept. 28, 1991

ISBN: 1-55611-303-X

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Donald Fine

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1991

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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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