Meandering and laden with extraneous details, Steinberg’s narrative nonetheless builds a disturbing picture of a society...

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SIZWE’S TEST

A YOUNG MAN’S JOURNEY THROUGH AFRICA’S AIDS EPIDEMIC

A South African journalist probes into the disconnect between modern medicine and a severely stressed tribal culture in a nation where some six million people, more than one in eight citizens, are HIV-positive.

Steinberg (The Number: One Man’s Search for Identity in the Cape Underworld and Prison Gangs, 2005, etc.) focuses on two men: Sizwe Magadla, a shopkeeper in a small, poor, remote village in the Lusikisiki district of the country’s Eastern Cape Province, and Dr. Hermann Reuter, who runs an antiretroviral treatment program there. In cooperation with the provincial health department, the international organization Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) has set up local healthcare clinics to test and administer antiretroviral medicines. With Sizwe as his interpreter, Steinberg spends time at Lusikisiki’s clinics, observing the treatment program, getting to know nurses and patients and following the workings of a support group for HIV-positive patients. In Reuter’s view, if good AIDS treatment is provided, people will come and get it. However, Sizwe refuses to be tested, and Steinberg wants to understand why. Conversations with the skeptical Sizwe reveal not just a fear of demons and witchcraft and a suspicion that white doctors’ needles impart sickness, but deeper issues. The author eventually realizes that Sizwe will not be tested because to be found HIV-positive would mean he could not marry or have children to carry on his name. His individual story reveals the limitations of treatment programs in a place where medicine has long been seen as an ingredient in white political power.

Meandering and laden with extraneous details, Steinberg’s narrative nonetheless builds a disturbing picture of a society caught in a tragic situation with no clear solutions.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-1-4165-5269-7

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2007

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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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Authoritative and, most helpfully, accessible.

HEALING OUR VILLAGE

A SELF-CARE GUIDE TO DIABETES CONTROL

Self-help guide for diabetes sufferers, mostly in question-and-answer format, with an emphasis on helping racial and ethnic minority diabetics.

Coleman is a pharmacist with a doctorate in her specialty, Gavin a Ph.D. and M.D. Aside from acknowledgments and a foreword signed by Gavin alone, their voices and expertise are indistinguishable, offering lucid, simple solutions for diabetes patients. Gavin relates watching his great-grandmother endure debilitating pain as a result of diabetes while he visited her as a youngster. He remembers hearing adults mention that sugar killed her, and he wondered how something that tasted sweet could cause so much harm. As an adult, he realized that his great-grandmother's affliction could be controlled through treatment. The authors focus on Type 2 diabetes, the most common form in minority populations. An estimated 18.2 million Americans are diabetic, with perhaps 5 million unaware of their situation. About 11 percent of U.S. diabetics are African-American, and about 8 percent are Latino. The question-and-answer format begins with an overview section about diabetes, with an emphasis on risk factors. Section Two covers management of the disease, including nutrition, exercise, blood-testing, oral medications and insulin use. In addition, the authors continually recommend smoking cessation, as well as instructing patients on the readiness of self-treatment. Section Three explains the complications—high blood pressure, high cholesterol and heart disease—that could arise if the condition remains untreated or treated ineffectively. The questions in all of the sections are worded simply, and the answers are usually free of medical jargon. Though the sudden shifts in tone and voice are occasionally jarring, the writing remains clear enough to distill the facts. The real downside here, though: patronizing, laughable illustrations that degrade the overall product.

Authoritative and, most helpfully, accessible.

Pub Date: Jan. 31, 2004

ISBN: 0-9746948-0-0

Page Count: -

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 27, 2010

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