A quietly powerful, assured debut.

NOW IT'S FUNNY

HOW I SURVIVED CANCER, DIVORCE AND OTHER LOOMING DISASTERS

One man’s funny, bittersweet memoir of physical and marital collapse and rebirth.

When his doctors find a small smudge on one of 40-year-old TV production–company owner Solomon’s lungs during a routine physical, they at first discount its significance. Even later, after other tests, they’re professionally circumspect: “They describe things in dimensions and locations, and from these various ellipses you have to draw the picture yourself.” The picture is cancer, and before readers of Solomon’s engaging and ultimately redemptive (as he puts it, “I’m happy to be around to watch you laugh, believe me”) memoir have progressed very far into his tale, the cancer has metastasized. Solomon, in the middle of a strained marriage and trying to be a good father to his 6-year-old son, Luke, feels like “the protagonist in a cruel and bitter joke.” What follows this initial diagnosis will be familiar to anybody who’s ever known (or been) a cancer patient: an endless round of tests, procedures, CAT scans and catheters, all of which Solomon describes with a sharp clarity leavened by warm, inclusive wit. Solomon endures the horrors of his own situation with plenty of psychological help from the camaraderie he finds with other patients: “You find you’ve got endless company. Everybody’s got something.” Solomon skillfully intertwines the medical with the emotional, affectingly describing the toll his illness takes on his already fragile family; the chapter “Telling Luke” is a small masterpiece in depicting a father-son bond under unthinkable pressure. Through the whole account, Solomon is both a remarkably smart guide and a very entertaining one. There is no pathos in these pages, and that will move readers all the more.

A quietly powerful, assured debut.

Pub Date: Feb. 16, 2012

ISBN: 978-1463749552

Page Count: 212

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: March 21, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2012

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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 absorbing, wide-ranging story of humans’ relationship with the water.

WHY WE SWIM

A study of swimming as sport, survival method, basis for community, and route to physical and mental well-being.

For Bay Area writer Tsui (American Chinatown: A People's History of Five Neighborhoods, 2009), swimming is in her blood. As she recounts, her parents met in a Hong Kong swimming pool, and she often visited the beach as a child and competed on a swim team in high school. Midway through the engaging narrative, the author explains how she rejoined the team at age 40, just as her 6-year-old was signing up for the first time. Chronicling her interviews with scientists and swimmers alike, Tsui notes the many health benefits of swimming, some of which are mental. Swimmers often achieve the “flow” state and get their best ideas while in the water. Her travels took her from the California coast, where she dove for abalone and swam from Alcatraz back to San Francisco, to Tokyo, where she heard about the “samurai swimming” martial arts tradition. In Iceland, she met Guðlaugur Friðþórsson, a local celebrity who, in 1984, survived six hours in a winter sea after his fishing vessel capsized, earning him the nickname “the human seal.” Although humans are generally adapted to life on land, the author discovered that some have extra advantages in the water. The Bajau people of Indonesia, for instance, can do 10-minute free dives while hunting because their spleens are 50% larger than average. For most, though, it’s simply a matter of practice. Tsui discussed swimming with Dara Torres, who became the oldest Olympic swimmer at age 41, and swam with Kim Chambers, one of the few people to complete the daunting Oceans Seven marathon swim challenge. Drawing on personal experience, history, biology, and social science, the author conveys the appeal of “an unflinching giving-over to an element” and makes a convincing case for broader access to swimming education (372,000 people still drown annually).

An absorbing, wide-ranging story of humans’ relationship with the water.

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-61620-786-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: Jan. 5, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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