Not without flaws but an important account of coming of age (and rage) within today’s explosive racial dynamic.

WHEN THEY CALL YOU A TERRORIST

A BLACK LIVES MATTER MEMOIR

A founder of Black Lives Matter chronicles growing up sensitive and black in a country militarized against her community.

With assistance from Bandele (Something Like Beautiful: One Single Mother's Story, 2009, etc.), Khan-Cullors synthesizes memoir and polemic to discuss oppressive policing and mass imprisonment, the hypocrisy of the drug war, and other aspects of white privilege, portraying the social network–based activism of BLM and like-minded groups as the only rational response to American-style apartheid. She argues repeatedly and powerfully that mechanisms have evolved to ensnare working-class people of color from childhood, while white Americans are afforded leniency in their youthful trespasses. She learned of such hidden codes early, and she documents her hardscrabble but vibrant upbringing in segregated, suburban Los Angeles during the 1980s. The drug war’s resurgence, and a newly punitive attitude toward the poor, cast a shadow over the lives of her endlessly working mother and her male relatives: “[My brother] and his friends—really all of us—were out there trying to stay safe against the onslaught of adults who, Vietnam-like, saw the enemy as anyone Black or Brown.” Her perspective was amplified by attending segregated, gifted schools in adjoining white suburbs, where she explored the arts and acknowledged her queer sexuality while developing a passion for social organizing. Later, her outrage over the unpunished killings of Trayvon Martin and others led her and two friends to brainstorm a new, viral social justice movement: “We know we want whatever we create to have global reach.” The author’s passion is undeniable and infectious, but the many summary-based passages sometimes feel repetitive, and the concrete narrative of BLM’s expanding activism is underdeveloped. Since she emphasizes her organizational focus as prioritizing the role of women of color and LBGT or gender-nonconforming individuals, the audience for this socially relevant jeremiad may be limited.

Not without flaws but an important account of coming of age (and rage) within today’s explosive racial dynamic.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-250-17108-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 13, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 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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