A heartfelt witness to the changing political and emotional landscape of the Cuban-American experience.

TRAVELING HEAVY

A MEMOIR IN BETWEEN JOURNEYS

A Cuban-born academic re-creates a moving emotional journey from Cuba to America.

A cultural anthropologist whose first love was writing poetry and fiction, Behar (Anthropology/Univ. of Michigan; An Island Called Home: Returning to Jewish Cuba, 2007, etc.) is a stylish writer. Her probings about her complicated Jewish Cuban ancestry and family’s immigration to America mine compelling, relevant issues about identity and belonging. Her love of travel first took root at age 5 with her emigration from Havana with her mother, father and small brother in 1962. The family settled in the Ashkenazi section of Forest Hills, Queens, making ends meet selling “fabric, envelopes and shoes.” The young author was thrown, sink or swim, into first-grade, though she knew no English. Bookish and assertive, Behar wanted to pursue her education despite the injunctions imposed by her authoritarian father, and she eventually became a cultural anthropologist, able to use her Spanish for field work among farmers in Spain and Mexico. Her essays meander among these decisive events of her life, circling always back to the place where she began and longed to return: Cuba. She was able to return to her homeland in various capacities over the years, especially as a visiting academic. In “The Freedom to Travel Anywhere in the World,” Behar delineates the glaring discrepancy between her own privileged comings and goings from Michigan, with suitcases laden with plentiful American products, and the dire shortages of and restrictions on her friends and family in Cuba. Yet always, touchingly, she is accorded by her compatriots “political innocence, [and] welcomed with tenderness.”

A heartfelt witness to the changing political and emotional landscape of the Cuban-American experience.

Pub Date: April 25, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-8223-5467-3

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Duke Univ.

Review Posted Online: Jan. 14, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2013

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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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