Sharp, entertaining, informative, and blessedly free of poor-me-see-how-I-suffered-ism.

READ REVIEW

ALL IN MY HEAD

AN EPIC QUEST TO CURE AN UNRELENTING, TOTALLY UNREASONABLE, AND ONLY SLIGHTLY ENLIGHTENING HEADACHE

A darkly witty account of Kamen’s long search for a cure for her headache, melded with a report on medicine’s failure to solve the mystery of headaches and society’s reluctance to take them seriously—especially when it’s a woman who has them.

Kamen (Feminist Fatale, 1991), a contributor to Salon, Ms., the Chicago Tribune, and other newspapers, suffers from chronic daily headache, or CDH, a neurological disorder that she has had since the age of twenty-four. While the personal story of Kamen the patient makes up a large portion of this report, Kamen the journalist attended medical meetings, interviewed other patients about their experiences, and researched the literature to create a clear picture of the poor state of pain care today. Her aim is to increase social awareness of chronic pain as a women’s issue and to respond to the dismissive accusation that “It’s all in your head.” She takes the reader on a long and bumpy trail leading to a host of doctors and clinics, both traditional and alternative: general practitioners, neurologists, osteopaths, psychiatrists, ear-nose-throat specialists, physical therapists, and body-work and massage therapists, acupuncturists, a neuro-ophthalmologist, a brain surgeon, even a shaman. She tries countless pain medications that balloon her body, leave her groggy, and give her worse problems than her original headache. She even undergoes surgery, which only increases her headache pain. Throughout, sidebars provide pertinent facts, statistics, history, and droll commentary. There’s solid information in the text, too, as Kamen explores current views of pain as psychosomatic, explains the differences between causes of pain and triggers of pain, and reports on what new research through brain scans is revealing. She concludes with counsel for fellow sufferers and a tart, no-nonsense checklist informing doctors, the government, pharmaceuticals, insurance companies, and others what they can do to improve the lives of those with chronic pain.

Sharp, entertaining, informative, and blessedly free of poor-me-see-how-I-suffered-ism.

Pub Date: March 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-7382-0903-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Da Capo

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2005

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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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