At a moment when women’s experiences in the workplace have come to the fore, Hirsch’s eye-opening study of gender-based...

Part memoir and part sociomedical inquiry, veteran journalist Hirsch’s first book explores the many physical and emotional challenges faced by young women confronted with serious illnesses.

Inspired by her own experiences, the author focuses largely on younger women beset by significant maladies. Struck in her 20s by a daunting combination of hip surgery, thyroid cancer, Lyme disease, mast-cell activation syndrome—a rare autoimmune condition that can throw one inexplicably into anaphylactic shock—plus having witnessed her father, who suffered from multiple sclerosis, take his own life, Hirsch wonders if she is should view herself as a person having a disability, or rather "just all these weird, hard health things woven together.” In this well-researched account, which includes interviews with a number of women struggling with but refusing to be diminished by cancer, HIV, MS, and other diseases, the author notes the additional pressure to appear “youthful and carefree” amid a health crisis. Such cultural expectations lead many young women fighting disease to feel “constantly masked,” especially when fearing rejection by peers and sexual partners and subjected to callous employers—e.g., one of Hirsch’s former editors told her, “I don’t want to hear about your cancer.” In addition to disturbing anecdotal evidence showing the medical profession’s historic discounting of women’s pain, the author cites a variety of statistics showing gross gender inequity in clinical trials, which study primarily male subjects. Hirsch points out that federal Food and Drug Administration guidelines from 1977 prevented childbearing-age women from even participating in drug trials—a ban that wasn’t lifted “until 1993.” Even though about half of those living with HIV are women, a 2016 report revealed they represented only 19 percent of those studied in clinical trials of HIV antiretroviral drugs, and women were also found to be “underrepresented” in “high-impact studies of non-sex-specific cancers.”

At a moment when women’s experiences in the workplace have come to the fore, Hirsch’s eye-opening study of gender-based disparity surrounding illness will hopefully help spawn a similar reckoning for women’s health.

Pub Date: March 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-8070-2395-2

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Beacon Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 22, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018


The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006



Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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