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THE LUNCH-BOX CHRONICLES

NOTES FROM THE PARENTING UNDERGROUND

Dispatches from the parenting front line—pungent and funny and spot-on—from Winik. When her husband died from AIDS three years back (a story she related in First Comes Love, 1996), Winik found herself a dumbstruck single mother of two young boys: ``My life stretched before me like a hard labor sentence.'' Every tuck-in, wake-up, drop-off, and drive home, every mess to be cleaned and each tear to be wiped away was hers alone. Here she tells of her efforts to do her best by her kids, and that she does: She tells of scrabbling to make a living while still making sure to volunteer at school (her mental bumper sticker for her kids' school is ``Bryker Woods Elementary—Where Parental Involvement Is a Sickness''), along the way offering such advice as ``deliver the store-bought muffins to the bake sale with your chin held high.'' She paws over the strange and confusing terrain of nudity around the home, reading the same miserable (and once dearly loved) book a million times, finding pleasure in the heretofore abhorred world of sports (``a soccer mom, a Cowboys fan, and a frigging golfer''), of her role as stepmother to her boyfriend's two girls, of contending honestly with the questions of sex and drugs (she herself having long, involved histories therein of defiance and risk-taking, and being anarchically bent still), and—a wicked, indelible moment—a slap she administers to her younger son. She delineates a life of quicksilver emotions, from bathetic to eulogistic in the blink of an eye, and avoids sentimentality at all costs: ``Girls are bitches, boys are assholes,'' she notes, though not without affection. Winik fires from the hip, and if her observations are never blazingly original, they are always heartfelt. She's a mother, a loving mother, a good mother.

Pub Date: April 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-375-40156-3

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1998

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

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

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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. 29, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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