A reserved, rather sketchy autobiography by the man whose nomination to succeed Joycelyn Elders as surgeon general was defeated in 1995. Foster keeps his emotions well in check while describing his childhood as a middle-class, achievement-oriented black youth in the segregated South of the 1930s and '40s, and his experiences as a medical student at the virtually all-white University of Arkansas in the 1950s. After completing his residency, Foster moved rapidly up the career ladder, becoming chief of obstetrics and gynecology at Tuskegee Institute's hospital, the center of medical care for Alabama's poor black population. His innovative tiered system of health care services based on outreach clinics soon became the model for other states and led to Foster's election to the National Academy of Science's Institute of Medicine, where he was asked to study the health effects of legalized abortion. He was later tapped by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to direct a project on how to consolidate health services for high-risk adolescents, which led eventually to his ``I Have a Future'' program, based in Nashville's public housing projects. Clearly a public-spirited citizen and compassionate physician, Foster recounts his professional accomplishments with quiet pride, but his personal life remains pretty much a closed book. In his later chapters, however, the man himself finally becomes visible. When his nomination as surgeon general ran into opposition from antiabortion forces, the inexplicably naive Foster received a bruising education in politics, and he's still stinging from it. He hasn't given up wanting to make a difference, however. As President Clinton's senior advisor for teen pregnancy and youth issues, he concludes here with a candid assessment of the country's public health needs and a ``domestic medical Marshall Plan'' to deal with them. A rich, full life that deserves a more complete telling. (Author tour; radio satellite tour)

Pub Date: June 16, 1997

ISBN: 0-684-82685-2

Page Count: 182

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1997

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Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and...


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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A standout immigrant coming-of-age story.



In her first nonfiction book, novelist Grande (Dancing with Butterflies, 2009, etc.) delves into her family’s cycle of separation and reunification.

Raised in poverty so severe that spaghetti reminded her of the tapeworms endemic to children in her Mexican hometown, the author is her family’s only college graduate and writer, whose honors include an American Book Award and International Latino Book Award. Though she was too young to remember her father when he entered the United States illegally seeking money to improve life for his family, she idolized him from afar. However, she also blamed him for taking away her mother after he sent for her when the author was not yet 5 years old. Though she emulated her sister, she ultimately answered to herself, and both siblings constantly sought affirmation of their parents’ love, whether they were present or not. When one caused disappointment, the siblings focused their hopes on the other. These contradictions prove to be the narrator’s hallmarks, as she consistently displays a fierce willingness to ask tough questions, accept startling answers, and candidly render emotional and physical violence. Even as a girl, Grande understood the redemptive power of language to define—in the U.S., her name’s literal translation, “big queen,” led to ridicule from other children—and to complicate. In spelling class, when a teacher used the sentence “my mamá loves me” (mi mamá me ama), Grande decided to “rearrange the words so that they formed a question: ¿Me ama mi mamá? Does my mama love me?”

A standout immigrant coming-of-age story.

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4516-6177-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: June 12, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2012

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