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

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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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A vivid sequel that strains credulity.

THE ESCAPE ARTIST

Fremont (After Long Silence, 1999) continues—and alters—her story of how memories of the Holocaust affected her family.

At the age of 44, the author learned that her father had disowned her, declaring her “predeceased”—or dead in his eyes—in his will. It was his final insult: Her parents had stopped speaking to her after she’d published After Long Silence, which exposed them as Jewish Holocaust survivors who had posed as Catholics in Europe and America in order to hide multilayered secrets. Here, Fremont delves further into her tortured family dynamics and shows how the rift developed. One thread centers on her life after her harrowing childhood: her education at Wellesley and Boston University, the loss of her virginity to a college boyfriend before accepting her lesbianism, her stint with the Peace Corps in Lesotho, and her decades of work as a lawyer in Boston. Another strand involves her fraught relationship with her sister, Lara, and how their difficulties relate to their father, a doctor embittered after years in the Siberian gulag; and their mother, deeply enmeshed with her own sister, Zosia, who had married an Italian count and stayed in Rome to raise a child. Fremont tells these stories with novelistic flair, ending with a surprising theory about why her parents hid their Judaism. Yet she often appears insensitive to the serious problems she says Lara once faced, including suicidal depression. “The whole point of suicide, I thought, was to succeed at it,” she writes. “My sister’s completion rate was pathetic.” Key facts also differ from those in her earlier work. After Long Silence says, for example, that the author grew up “in a small city in the Midwest” while she writes here that she grew up in “upstate New York,” changes Fremont says she made for “consistency” in the new book but that muddy its narrative waters. The discrepancies may not bother readers seeking psychological insights rather than factual accuracy, but others will wonder if this book should have been labeled a fictionalized autobiography rather than a memoir.

A vivid sequel that strains credulity.

Pub Date: Feb. 11, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-982113-60-5

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 21, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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