A closely argued case for racial and class equity in health care, revealing a medical regime sorely in need of reform.

UNDER THE SKIN

THE HIDDEN TOLL OF RACISM ON AMERICAN LIVES AND ON THE HEALTH OF OUR NATION

A damning account of how race and racism determine the quality and quantity of medical care in the U.S.

Patients in America enjoy what journalist and professor Villarosa characterizes as “the most advanced medical technology in the world.” Yet, she adds, by most measures, Black and other minority Americans are denied this technology. Though the author writes that there is nothing inferior or different about the Black body, for generations, a racist medical complex has persisted, supposing that, for example, Blacks possess “skin [that] is thicker than white skin” and feel less pain than do Whites. Less pain equals less anesthetic relief. So it is with many other aspects of health care. Daring to evoke critical race theory at a time when it arouses so many conservative legislators and school boards across the country, Villarosa examines the intersectionality of class, race, and gender. She notes, for instance, that George Floyd was suffering from Covid-19 at the time of his death, a fact that has bearing on the larger fact that there has long been significant “racial disparity in life expectancy” in the U.S. that was only heightened by the systemic lack of medical care in minority communities. Villarosa enlists numerous case studies to prove that point. On mental health, for instance, she observes that Black and other minority people are largely excluded de facto from treatment, a matter that again intersects with issues of “race and masculinity” that work to keep Black men from seeking help. Furthermore, whereas relatively few Whites died from AIDS after the development of the vaunted antiviral cocktail in the mid-1990s, it persisted long after in Black communities, which Villarosa, then writing for the New York Times, had to fight to report on, since “the epidemic was supposed to be over in America.”

A closely argued case for racial and class equity in health care, revealing a medical regime sorely in need of reform.

Pub Date: June 14, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-385-54488-7

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: April 12, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2022

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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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Certain to be controversial, but all the more important for that.

PIRATE ENLIGHTENMENT, OR THE REAL LIBERTALIA

The final book from the longtime activist anthropologist.

In a lively display of up-to-date anthropology, Graeber (1961-2020) offers a behind-the-scenes view of how a skilled researcher extracts knowledge from the slimmest evidence about a long-ago multiethnic society composed of pirates and settled members of existing communities. In this posthumous book, the author turns to 17th- and 18th-century Madagascar and examines hard-to-credit sources to tease out some plausible facts about the creation and early life of a distinctive Indian Ocean society, some of whose Malagasy descendants (“the Zana-Malata”) are alive today. Exhibiting his characteristic politically tinged sympathies, Graeber describes the pirates who plied the seas and settled on Madagascar as an ethno-racially integrated proletariat “spearheading the development of new forms of democratic governance.” He also argues that many of the pirates and others displayed European Enlightenment ideas even though they inhabited “a very unlikely home for Enlightenment political experiments.” Malagasies were “Madagascar’s most stubbornly egalitarian peoples,” and, as the author shows, women played significant roles in the society, which reflected Jewish, Muslin, Ismaili, and Gnostic origins as well as native Malagasy and Christian ones. All of this information gives Graeber the chance to wonder, in his most provocative conjecture, whether Enlightenment ideals might have emerged as much beyond Western lands as within them. His argument that pirates, women traders, and community leaders in early 18th-century Madagascar were “global political actors in the fullest sense of the term” is overstated, but even with such excesses taken into account, the text is a tour de force of anthropological scholarship and an important addition to Malagasy history. It’s also a work written with a pleasingly light touch. The principal audience will be anthropologists, but those who love pirate lore or who seek evidence that mixed populations were long capable of establishing proto-democratic societies will also find enlightenment in these pages.

Certain to be controversial, but all the more important for that.

Pub Date: Jan. 24, 2023

ISBN: 978-0-374-61019-7

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Oct. 6, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2022

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