A sweeping chronology of human deafness fortified with the author’s personal struggles and triumphs.

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HEARING HAPPINESS

DEAFNESS CURES IN HISTORY

A well-rounded history of deafness and its associated pseudo-curative “quackery.”

In an effective amalgam of research and memoir, Virdi astutely traces hearing loss treatments and attitudes from the mid-1800s through the modern era. She also incorporates her personal struggles with deafness throughout her life, which lends the narrative a sense of depth and intimacy beyond the more clinical analysis. The author describes how she became gravely ill with nearly fatal bacterial meningitis at age 4 while her family was living in Kuwait. The illness rendered her deaf. For Virdi, the physical, social, and cultural struggles of being deaf became a strange new world populated by clunky analog hearing aids and stigmatized labeling. Being initially misclassified as hearing-impaired instead of profoundly deaf, Virdi experienced struggles with identity formation throughout her early years and into young adulthood. Digging into archival histories, the author explores the early use of restorative diets, acoustic instrumentation such as ear trumpets, artificial eardrums (“an attractive alternative to awkward and bulky acoustic aids”), and other ostensible treatments, including many unconventional, usually ineffective “cure-all” therapies. The text advances onward to more progressive technology like custom-fit hearing aids and cochlear implants, which provided helpful treatment even as hoax cures continued to proliferate. The author is most engaging when she graphically illustrates these oddly fascinating medical and technological treatments administered to hearing-impaired patients. Even readers with a casual interest in audiology and the cloaked cultural strictures of audism will find Virdi’s meticulous research and honest evaluation commendable; some may even wish for more of the author’s journey. Her multifaceted narrative offers both a personal and historical perspective on the plight of the deaf and how modern technological advancements usher in new possibilities. Virdi enhances the text with vintage photos and ads for a variety of products and “fanciful fads.”

A sweeping chronology of human deafness fortified with the author’s personal struggles and triumphs. (b/w illustrations)

Pub Date: May 19, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-226-69061-2

Page Count: 328

Publisher: Univ. of Chicago

Review Posted Online: March 1, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 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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Loads of good explaining, with reminders, time and again, of how much remains unknown, neatly putting the death of science...

A SHORT HISTORY OF NEARLY EVERYTHING

Bryson (I'm a Stranger Here Myself, 1999, etc.), a man who knows how to track down an explanation and make it confess, asks the hard questions of science—e.g., how did things get to be the way they are?—and, when possible, provides answers.

As he once went about making English intelligible, Bryson now attempts the same with the great moments of science, both the ideas themselves and their genesis, to resounding success. Piqued by his own ignorance on these matters, he’s egged on even more so by the people who’ve figured out—or think they’ve figured out—such things as what is in the center of the Earth. So he goes exploring, in the library and in company with scientists at work today, to get a grip on a range of topics from subatomic particles to cosmology. The aim is to deliver reports on these subjects in terms anyone can understand, and for the most part, it works. The most difficult is the nonintuitive material—time as part of space, say, or proteins inventing themselves spontaneously, without direction—and the quantum leaps unusual minds have made: as J.B.S. Haldane once put it, “The universe is not only queerer than we suppose; it is queerer than we can suppose.” Mostly, though, Bryson renders clear the evolution of continental drift, atomic structure, singularity, the extinction of the dinosaur, and a mighty host of other subjects in self-contained chapters that can be taken at a bite, rather than read wholesale. He delivers the human-interest angle on the scientists, and he keeps the reader laughing and willing to forge ahead, even over their heads: the human body, for instance, harboring enough energy “to explode with the force of thirty very large hydrogen bombs, assuming you knew how to liberate it and really wished to make a point.”

Loads of good explaining, with reminders, time and again, of how much remains unknown, neatly putting the death of science into perspective.

Pub Date: May 6, 2003

ISBN: 0-7679-0817-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Broadway

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2003

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