HOPE IN A JAR

THE MAKING OF AMERICA'S BEAUTY CULTURE

Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder—but the power of the beauty culture to control women’s behavior is impressively illustrated in this study of the growth of America’s beauty industry. A history professor at the University of Massachusetts, Peiss (Cheap Amusements, not reviewed) chronicles the use of cosmetics over time and their economic, sociological, and psychological impact through the ages. She begins in the late 19th century, when cosmetics, often filled with such toxic substances as lead, were mostly the stuff of hussies and fallen women. She details the gradual acceptance of cosmetics, including their very important role in establishing women as entrepreneurs in business. Still, the frustrating standards created by make-up and its manufacturers (in idealizing blondes, for instance) have done damage to countless women’s self-esteem for long decades. Peiss does a particularly good job in tracing the impact of various standard WASP beauty fantasies on people, such as African-Americans, who could never hope to fulfill the fantasies. She does not succumb, though, to the seductions of militant feminism. While noting the paradoxical messages sent frequently to women from employers, who may focus to an absurd degree on physical appearance as a measure of professional value and achievement, Peiss also recognizes the positive roles played by the beauty culture in a woman’s private, social, and imaginative life. She concludes that cosmetics, if used sagely, can even serve to make a declaration of selfhood as one of many tools used by women “to announce their adult status, sexual allure, youthful spirit, political beliefs . . . and even to proclaim their right to self-definition.” A compelling look at beauty as a lightning rod for the bigger conflicts surrounding women’s still-evolving social place. (75 b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: May 21, 1998

ISBN: 0-8050-5550-9

Page Count: 334

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1998

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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