Kigel’s emphasis on primary sources is refreshing, and he fashions an instructive work that will be especially useful for...

BECOMING ABRAHAM LINCOLN

THE COMING OF AGE OF OUR GREATEST PRESIDENT

An intimate biography of young Abraham Lincoln from primary sources—i.e., those who knew him in his formative years.

Lincoln’s Illinois law partner, William Herndon, nine years his junior, was the primary and initial biographer of Lincoln after his death, and while thorough, he was guilty of “myth-making.” In this touching work geared toward students, New York City teacher Kigel (Heav'nly Tidings from the Afric Muse: The Grace and Genius of Phillis Wheatley, 2017, etc.) presents the life of the legendary president up to 25, when he first got elected to the Illinois Assembly. The narrative is comprised exclusively of voices who knew the early Lincoln, such as family and acquaintances in his years in Kentucky, Indiana, and Illinois. What emerges from these folksy recollections is a portrait of a young man forged in the harsh reality of frontier life in a family that moved frequently, living in basic log cabins and tending to hardscrabble farms, and where hard labor and little education were the way of life. Moreover, Lincoln was marked early on by the deaths of his newborn baby brother, his mother (when he was 9), and his only sister, who died having her first baby. While known for his height and physical prowess, the young Lincoln was also enamored by books available to the mostly illiterate folks on the frontier, specifically the Bible, Pilgrim’s Progress, Aesop’s Fables, and Robinson Crusoe. His father was insistent his son get “a real eddication.” Lincoln relied on books as his teachers, and he fashioned himself into an inventive storyteller and great entertainer. He also garnered a reputation as a scrupulously honest man, a reputation begun in his early jobs as a ferryman and store clerk. An early trip to New Orleans by steamboat exposed him to the horrors of the slave trade.

Kigel’s emphasis on primary sources is refreshing, and he fashions an instructive work that will be especially useful for younger readers.

Pub Date: June 6, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5107-1730-5

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing

Review Posted Online: April 10, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 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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