A compellingly portrayed and vividly realized biography of triumph and trailblazing.

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THE DOCTORS BLACKWELL

HOW TWO PIONEERING SISTERS BROUGHT MEDICINE TO WOMEN AND WOMEN TO MEDICINE

A riveting dual biography of America’s first female physicians.

In this follow-up to Daughters of the Samurai (2015), Nimura chronicles the lives and work of Elizabeth (1821-1910) and Emily (1826-1910) Blackwell, America’s first and third women to earn medical degrees, deftly weaving together a dramatic true story that reads like a work of historical fiction. Bright and determined, the sisters received their hard-won medical degrees a few years apart. Even though she found bodily functions “disgusting,” Elizabeth was a pioneer in the genderless pursuit of common good through education; Emily held an aligned ideology, but she became more concerned with practical medical application. Maintaining narrative momentum, Nimura packs the text with evocative, memorable vignettes—e.g., the sisters aweing entire lecture halls into stunned silence or eruptions of applause with their wit and courage, battling life-threatening illnesses, or enjoying encounters with a variety of historical figures. As different as they were alike, both sisters met seemingly insurmountable obstacles with inspiring displays of fortitude. Refreshingly, the author does not portray these women as one-dimensional figures of women’s suffrage, which they resolutely were not. Instead, she describes how both sisters often viewed women without admiration or sisterly affection. For example, she highlights how Elizabeth’s “own sympathies lay, to a surprising extent, with the men who were nonplussed by her presence [at medical school]” rather than the women she treated. Peppered with appearances from Abraham Lincoln, Florence Nightingale, Susan B. Anthony, and others, the text is a vibrant landscape that affirms the prominent place of the Blackwell sisters in medical history. Illustrating how they created and activated rich networks of supporters and sympathizers, both men and women, throughout their professional pursuits, Nimura is careful never to embellish one sister’s character at the expense of the other. As she clearly demonstrates, each possessed characteristic strengths and weaknesses.

A compellingly portrayed and vividly realized biography of triumph and trailblazing.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2021

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Nov. 5, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: today

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A top-notch political memoir and serious exercise in practical politics for every reader.

A PROMISED LAND

In the first volume of his presidential memoir, Obama recounts the hard path to the White House.

In this long, often surprisingly candid narrative, Obama depicts a callow youth spent playing basketball and “getting loaded,” his early reading of difficult authors serving as a way to impress coed classmates. (“As a strategy for picking up girls, my pseudo-intellectualism proved mostly worthless,” he admits.) Yet seriousness did come to him in time and, with it, the conviction that America could live up to its stated aspirations. His early political role as an Illinois state senator, itself an unlikely victory, was not big enough to contain Obama’s early ambition, nor was his term as U.S. Senator. Only the presidency would do, a path he painstakingly carved out, vote by vote and speech by careful speech. As he writes, “By nature I’m a deliberate speaker, which, by the standards of presidential candidates, helped keep my gaffe quotient relatively low.” The author speaks freely about the many obstacles of the race—not just the question of race and racism itself, but also the rise, with “potent disruptor” Sarah Palin, of a know-nothingism that would manifest itself in an obdurate, ideologically driven Republican legislature. Not to mention the meddlings of Donald Trump, who turns up in this volume for his idiotic “birther” campaign while simultaneously fishing for a contract to build “a beautiful ballroom” on the White House lawn. A born moderate, Obama allows that he might not have been ideological enough in the face of Mitch McConnell, whose primary concern was then “clawing [his] way back to power.” Indeed, one of the most compelling aspects of the book, as smoothly written as his previous books, is Obama’s cleareyed scene-setting for how the political landscape would become so fractured—surely a topic he’ll expand on in the next volume.

A top-notch political memoir and serious exercise in practical politics for every reader.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6316-9

Page Count: 768

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

GREENLIGHTS

All right, all right, all right: The affable, laconic actor delivers a combination of memoir and self-help book.

“This is an approach book,” writes McConaughey, adding that it contains “philosophies that can be objectively understood, and if you choose, subjectively adopted, by either changing your reality, or changing how you see it. This is a playbook, based on adventures in my life.” Some of those philosophies come in the form of apothegms: “When you can design your own weather, blow in the breeze”; “Simplify, focus, conserve to liberate.” Others come in the form of sometimes rambling stories that never take the shortest route from point A to point B, as when he recounts a dream-spurred, challenging visit to the Malian musician Ali Farka Touré, who offered a significant lesson in how disagreement can be expressed politely and without rancor. Fans of McConaughey will enjoy his memories—which line up squarely with other accounts in Melissa Maerz’s recent oral history, Alright, Alright, Alright—of his debut in Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused, to which he contributed not just that signature phrase, but also a kind of too-cool-for-school hipness that dissolves a bit upon realizing that he’s an older guy on the prowl for teenage girls. McConaughey’s prep to settle into the role of Wooderson involved inhabiting the mind of a dude who digs cars, rock ’n’ roll, and “chicks,” and he ran with it, reminding readers that the film originally had only three scripted scenes for his character. The lesson: “Do one thing well, then another. Once, then once more.” It’s clear that the author is a thoughtful man, even an intellectual of sorts, though without the earnestness of Ethan Hawke or James Franco. Though some of the sentiments are greeting card–ish, this book is entertaining and full of good lessons.

A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-13913-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: today

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