In a style that is literary but never pedantic, Stielstra has crafted a collection that has such a sense of continuity that...

THE WRONG WAY TO SAVE YOUR LIFE

ESSAYS

Perhaps not lifesaving, but a life-enriching collection of essays by a conscientious writer and teacher who knows that asking the right questions is more important than having all the answers.

Stielstra (Once I Was Cool, 2014) has often performed her pieces as well as published them, and her strong sense of voice and engagement with her audience reflect that experience. She is an ardent feminist, but her pieces rarely seem exclusionary; they are not directed toward any particular gender, race, economic class, generation (though rites of passage in 21st-century bohemian Chicago figure heavily), or even political persuasion. The author wants people to communicate, to connect, and to face their fears, not only of each other, but the ones deep inside. When she was in the process of losing her job within the writing program at a college where she’d spent almost two decades, she writes, “I outlined a book proposal, a collection of essays about fear.” That proposal became this book. So what is she afraid of? Writing. Those who might be offended by her writing. Not writing well enough. Falling in love. Getting married. Having a baby. Cancer. Men who grope. Her response to men who grope. Sex. Not enough sex. Sex with the strings of love attached. Mortgages. Property values. Her dad’s heart and his hunting adventures in Alaska. Guns. When her young son asked what an essay is, she responded, “It’s a kind of question.” He responded, “Okay. Did you find the answer?” After having her baby, Stielstra asks, “How do you write about depression in a way that’s not depressing?” Her own essay is the answer. She also maintains, “at some point, our education no longer belongs to teachers. It belongs to us.” The author sounds like a marvelous teacher, and her collection offers plenty of teaching moments.

In a style that is literary but never pedantic, Stielstra has crafted a collection that has such a sense of continuity that it could pass as a memoir.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-242920-9

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Perennial/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

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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 wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

INTO THE WILD

The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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