An outstanding primer that readers should put into the hands of their doctors.

THE PROBLEM OF ALZHEIMER'S

HOW SCIENCE, CULTURE, AND POLITICS TURNED A RARE DISEASE INTO A CRISIS AND WHAT WE CAN DO ABOUT IT

A professor of medicine at the University of Pennsylvania delivers a lucid, opinionated history of the science, politics, and care involved in the fight against this century’s most problematic disease.

The first symptom of Alzheimer’s is usually difficulty with memory, often recognized by a spouse, friend, or caregiver. Over years, memory deteriorates, and victims can no longer perform simple tasks such as paying bills or taking medicine. As the disease worsens, they become apathetic or delusional; lose the ability to dress, feed, and clean themselves; become bedridden and depressed; and often die from complications. Caring for an affected spouse or parent is a crushing experience, often bankrupting all but the wealthy because medical insurance and Medicare pay for medicine and doctor visits but not “custodial care,” which is estimated at as many as 170 hours per month. As Karlawish shows, Alzheimer’s usually causes more suffering for the caregiver than the patient. Until the 1970s, most doctors explained that this was “senility,” a consequence of aging beyond the scope of medical science. Eventually, researchers realized they were dealing with an epidemic of brain disease. At the same time, patient advocacy groups formed to lobby Congress, which was amenable to providing funding. Formerly, doctors diagnosed Alzheimer’s by examining the brain after death. Observing and testing living patients was a major advance. In 2012, the FDA approved an ingenious brain scan that illuminates the areas damaged by Alzheimer’s. Sadly, Medicare won’t pay for the $3,000 test, which doesn’t directly help patients because no good treatment exists (several drugs purport to slow its progress, but many experts believe they’re worthless). A medical expert with a page-turning style, Karlawish is mostly successful in conveying optimism. Hopeful drugs are in the research pipeline, but even better news is that physicians, institutions, and advocacy organizations are adopting more imaginative and humane programs to care for victims both before and after their disease becomes crippling.

An outstanding primer that readers should put into the hands of their doctors.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-21873-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 5, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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A lucid (in the sky with diamonds) look at the hows, whys, and occasional demerits of altering one’s mind.

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THIS IS YOUR MIND ON PLANTS

Building on his lysergically drenched book How to Change Your Mind (2018), Pollan looks at three plant-based drugs and the mental effects they can produce.

The disastrous war on drugs began under Nixon to control two classes of perceived enemies: anti-war protestors and Black citizens. That cynical effort, writes the author, drives home the point that “societies condone the mind-changing drugs that help uphold society’s rule and ban the ones that are seen to undermine it.” One such drug is opium, for which Pollan daringly offers a recipe for home gardeners to make a tea laced with the stuff, producing “a radical and by no means unpleasant sense of passivity.” You can’t overthrow a government when so chilled out, and the real crisis is the manufacture of synthetic opioids, which the author roundly condemns. Pollan delivers a compelling backstory: This section dates to 1997, but he had to leave portions out of the original publication to keep the Drug Enforcement Administration from his door. Caffeine is legal, but it has stronger effects than opium, as the author learned when he tried to quit: “I came to see how integral caffeine is to the daily work of knitting ourselves back together after the fraying of consciousness during sleep.” Still, back in the day, the introduction of caffeine to the marketplace tempered the massive amounts of alcohol people were drinking even though a cup of coffee at noon will keep banging on your brain at midnight. As for the cactus species that “is busy transforming sunlight into mescaline right in my front yard”? Anyone can grow it, it seems, but not everyone will enjoy effects that, in one Pollan experiment, “felt like a kind of madness.” To his credit, the author also wrestles with issues of cultural appropriation, since in some places it’s now easier for a suburbanite to grow San Pedro cacti than for a Native American to use it ceremonially.

A lucid (in the sky with diamonds) look at the hows, whys, and occasional demerits of altering one’s mind.

Pub Date: July 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-29690-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2021

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A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

AN INDIGENOUS PEOPLES' HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

Custer died for your sins. And so, this book would seem to suggest, did every other native victim of colonialism.

Inducing guilt in non-native readers would seem to be the guiding idea behind Dunbar-Ortiz’s (Emerita, Ethnic Studies/California State Univ., Hayward; Blood on the Border: A Memoir of the Contra War, 2005, etc.) survey, which is hardly a new strategy. Indeed, the author says little that hasn’t been said before, but she packs a trove of ideological assumptions into nearly every page. For one thing, while “Indian” isn’t bad, since “[i]ndigenous individuals and peoples in North America on the whole do not consider ‘Indian’ a slur,” “American” is due to the fact that it’s “blatantly imperialistic.” Just so, indigenous peoples were overwhelmed by a “colonialist settler-state” (the very language broadly applied to Israelis vis-à-vis the Palestinians today) and then “displaced to fragmented reservations and economically decimated”—after, that is, having been forced to live in “concentration camps.” Were he around today, Vine Deloria Jr., the always-indignant champion of bias-puncturing in defense of native history, would disavow such tidily packaged, ready-made, reflexive language. As it is, the readers who are likely to come to this book—undergraduates, mostly, in survey courses—probably won’t question Dunbar-Ortiz’s inaccurate assertion that the military phrase “in country” derives from the military phrase “Indian country” or her insistence that all Spanish people in the New World were “gold-obsessed.” Furthermore, most readers won’t likely know that some Ancestral Pueblo (for whom Dunbar-Ortiz uses the long-abandoned term “Anasazi”) sites show evidence of cannibalism and torture, which in turn points to the inconvenient fact that North America wasn’t entirely an Eden before the arrival of Europe.

A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8070-0040-3

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Beacon Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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