Roffman's debut adeptly straddles the line between academia and narrative nonfiction, delivering a slice of history that...

MARIJUANA NATION

ONE MAN'S CHRONICLE OF AMERICA GETTING HIGH: FROM VIETNAM TO LEGALIZATION

A memoir/treatise on marijuana that rises above most similar discussions.

Now that marijuana is legal in two states—and will likely be so throughout the remainder of the country in the not-too-distant future—it’s likely that the next generations of pot smokers won't realize how the drug's illegality had such a profound effect on pop culture. For instance, if Paul McCartney had access to all the marijuana his heart desired, would Rubber Soul have been Rubber Soul? that marijuana is readily accessible, within the next decade, the war on weed will be looked upon the way we view Prohibition: with a great big roll of eyes. All of which is why Roffman's (Emeritus, Social Work/Univ. of Washington) book is so important—so we'll remember. The author writes about the drug's history and his personal relationship with the leaf with an accessible voice that makes the contextual material read as smoothly as the anecdotal. However, it’s the personal stories that help the book stand out from the plethora of marijuana-focused books that have been released over the past several years. As a social work officer in Saigon during the Vietnam War, Roffman witnessed the positive effects that marijuana can have on mental health. After the war, he came to learn that weed was also a great help in alleviating physical suffering. Granted, this is all now common knowledge, but the author’s personal journey is so engaging that we're happy to relearn lessons that will permanently reshape culture as we know it. “These four plus decades of tilting at marijuana myths while seeking common ground have generated many stories,” he writes. “Perhaps they’ll be useful for readers finding themselves on a similar quest.”

Roffman's debut adeptly straddles the line between academia and narrative nonfiction, delivering a slice of history that even teetotalers will appreciate.

Pub Date: April 20, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-60598-546-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Pegasus

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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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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