EACH ONE TEACH ONE

UP AND OUT OF POVERTY: MEMOIRS OF A STREET ACTIVIST

A memoir recounting the struggles of a black Puerto Rican activist who helps others trapped, as he once was, in cycles of poverty, addiction, and homelessness. Casanova, vice president of the National Union of the Homeless and editor of the Union of the Homeless National News, shares two stories: his personal account of growing up in orphanages, on city streets, in detention centers and prisons; and the contemporary struggles of the homeless, especially on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. What emerges is a perturbing portrait of a callous, inefficient bureaucracy. The memoir's strength is its detailed indictment of various so-called ``helping'' institutions. Particularly disturbing is Casanova's depiction of Matteawan State Hospital, where he spent part of his adolescence, and where he witnessed mentally ill patients being routinely beaten, drugged, and placed in straitjackets by sadistic correction officers. Casanova was 16 when he saw officers ``take a patient, wrap towels around his neck . . . and drag him down the long ward until he was dead.'' He asserts that incompetent doctors were also responsible for many deaths, which were routinely dismissed as heart failures. Casanova's negative experiences taught him that ``all institutions tend to want you to remain dependent on them.'' He lashes out at the welfare system, aspects of Christianity and its various institutions, as well as left-liberal politicians. There is nothing one can depend on, Casanova concludes, other than oneself. Diagnosed as HIV-positive at age 51, Casanova sees his task—and that of all true activists and social workers—as not just feeding people, but providing them with the tools to feed themselves. Many institutions, and American society in general, are indicted in this angry memoir for failing to do that. Though the prose is often lackluster, this is a valuable firsthand account of a street survivor's harrowing experiences. (Author tour)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1996

ISBN: 1-880684-37-3

Page Count: 260

Publisher: Curbstone Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1996

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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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