All parents will recognize the moments of both terror and pride that mark the journey; parents of deaf children will garner...

I CAN HEAR YOU WHISPER

AN INTIMATE JOURNEY THROUGH THE SCIENCE OF SOUND AND LANGUAGE

A science journalist and mother of a child born with a congenital deformity of the inner ear brings both perspectives to bear on this account of her journey into the science of hearing and the world of the deaf.

Former Newsweek and People journalist Denworth’s (Toxic Truth: A Scientist, a Doctor, and the Battle over Lead, 2009) third son, Alex, was given a cochlear implant shortly before turning 3. That procedure, along with a hearing aid in his other ear, has enabled him to live and function well in the world of the hearing. The author based the decision on a clear understanding of what the consequences of not doing so would mean for Alex. Denworth employs her skills as a researcher to tell the story of early attempts to help the deaf. She visited the laboratories of neuroscientists studying the brain to understand how it processes sound, interviewed doctors, consulted surgeons and listened to educators at Gallaudet University, where communication occurs primarily through American Sign Language. Occasionally, the details get overly technical, but for the most part, Denworth understands how to keep readers engaged; for clarity, she includes a couple of line drawings of the ear, an implant and the brain. The Deaf community, choosing to regard deafness as a “difference” rather than a “disability,” has at times voiced fierce opposition to the use of cochlear implants, especially in young children, arguing that it removes children from the world of Deaf culture while not granting them full entry into the world of the hearing. The language of opponents has sometimes been harsh, with words like “genocide” occasionally used, but Denworth pulls back from the controversy. She learned to sign, acknowledging its value, but there is no doubt that she believes she has made the right choice in bringing her child into the wider world of spoken language.

All parents will recognize the moments of both terror and pride that mark the journey; parents of deaf children will garner both information and insights.

Pub Date: April 17, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-525-95379-1

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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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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AN INVISIBLE THREAD

THE TRUE STORY OF AN 11-YEAR-OLD PANHANDLER, A BUSY SALES EXECUTIVE, AND AN UNLIKELY MEETING WITH DESTINY

A straightforward tale of kindness and paying it forward in 1980s New York.

When advertising executive Schroff answered a child’s request for spare change by inviting him for lunch, she did not expect the encounter to grow into a friendship that would endure into his adulthood. The author recounts how she and Maurice, a promising boy from a drug-addicted family, learned to trust each other. Schroff acknowledges risks—including the possibility of her actions being misconstrued and the tension of crossing socio-economic divides—but does not dwell on the complexities of homelessness or the philosophical problems of altruism. She does not question whether public recognition is beneficial, or whether it is sufficient for the recipient to realize the extent of what has been done. With the assistance of People human-interest writer Tresniowski (Tiger Virtues, 2005, etc.), Schroff adheres to a personal narrative that traces her troubled relationship with her father, her meetings with Maurice and his background, all while avoiding direct parallels, noting that their childhoods differed in severity even if they shared similar emotional voids. With feel-good dramatizations, the story seldom transcends the message that reaching out makes a difference. It is framed in simple terms, from attributing the first meeting to “two people with complicated pasts and fragile dreams” that were “somehow meant to be friends” to the conclusion that love is a driving force. Admirably, Schroff notes that she did not seek a role as a “substitute parent,” and she does not judge Maurice’s mother for her lifestyle. That both main figures experience a few setbacks yet eventually survive is never in question; the story fittingly concludes with an epilogue by Maurice. For readers seeking an uplifting reminder that small gestures matter.

 

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-4516-4251-3

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Howard Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2011

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