An informative and enlightening blend of sports history and women’s history.

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REVOLUTIONS

HOW WOMEN CHANGED THE WORLD ON TWO WHEELS

A British writer and cycling enthusiast offers a global history of women cyclists while discussing the connection of cycling to feminist issues worldwide.

The concept for the bicycle can be traced back to a German inventor working in the early 1800s, but it wasn’t until 1885 that the first true ancestor to the modern bicycle emerged in Britain. In this well-researched, readable book, Ross shows how these “freedom-machine[s]” became intertwined with women’s emancipation and the feminist movement. In the first section of the four that comprise the book, the author examines how the rise of cycling coincided with the emergence of the Anglo-American “New Woman,” “feminists who…wanted to throw off the restrictive shackles imposed by late-Victorian patriarchy.” Women able to afford bicycles embraced them for the freedom of movement they offered. Some, like dress reform advocate Florence Wallace Pomeroy, campaigned for women’s cycling bloomers. But such women often found themselves at odds with social conventions that deemed cycling a menace to “femininity, grace and even fertility.” In the second section, Ross explores how minority females, along with those living in anti-feminist regimes worldwide, combat underrepresentation by creating cycling groups and teaching each other how to ride. She also shows how women like the “pre-Hollywood” Audrey Hepburn used bicycles during World War II to circulate “anti-Nazi propaganda.” The third section, about female cycling adventurers, features stories about intrepid individuals such as Elizabeth Robins Pennell and Dervla Murphy, who used their bicycles to travel Europe and the world. In the final section, Ross celebrates the largely unsung bicycling champions—e.g., Olympian Emma Pooley—who have fought, and continue to fight, sexism and lack of financial support for competitive female cyclists. Comprehensive and inclusive, the narrative shines the spotlight on a neglected history while making an impassioned plea for gender equality in cycling.

An informative and enlightening blend of sports history and women’s history.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-08360-4

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Plume

Review Posted Online: March 23, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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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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Effectively sobering. Suffice it to say that Pop Warner parents will want to armor their kids from head to toe upon reading...

CONCUSSION

A maddening, well-constructed tale of medical discovery and corporate coverup, set in morgues, laboratories, courtrooms, and football fields.

Nigeria-born Bennet Omalu is perhaps an unlikely hero, a medical doctor board-certified in four areas of pathology, “anatomic, clinical, forensic, and neuropathology,” and a well-rounded specialist in death. When his boss, celebrity examiner Cyril Wecht (“in the autopsy business, Wecht was a rock star”), got into trouble for various specimens of publicity-hound overreach, Omalu was there to offer patient, stoical support. The student did not surpass the teacher in flashiness, but Omalu was a rock star all his own in studying the brain to determine a cause of death. Laskas’ (Creative Writing/Univ. of Pittsburgh; Hidden America, 2012, etc.) main topic is the horrific injuries wrought to the brains and bodies of football players on the field. Omalu’s study of the unfortunate brain of Pittsburgh Steeler Mike Webster, who died in 2002 at 50 of a supposed heart attack, brought new attention to the trauma of concussion. Laskas trades in sportwriter-ese, all staccato delivery full of tough guyisms and sports clichés: “He had played for fifteen seasons, a warrior’s warrior; he played in more games—two hundred twenty—than any other player in Steelers history. Undersized, tough, a big, burly white guy—a Pittsburgh kind of guy—the heart of the best team in history.” A little of that goes a long way, but Laskas, a Pittsburgher who first wrote of Omalu and his studies in a story in GQ, does sturdy work in keeping up with a grim story that the NFL most definitely did not want to see aired—not in Omalu’s professional publications in medical journals, nor, reportedly, on the big screen in the Will Smith vehicle based on this book.

Effectively sobering. Suffice it to say that Pop Warner parents will want to armor their kids from head to toe upon reading it.

Pub Date: Nov. 24, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8757-7

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2015

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