An artful commingling of life with children, environmental mayhem and political-science primer. A great companion to Philip...

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RAISING ELIJAH

PROTECTING OUR CHILDREN IN AN AGE OF ENVIRONMENTAL CRISIS

Biologist and environmental-health writer Steingraber (Having Faith: An Ecologist’s Journey to Motherhood, 2001, etc.) confronts the hormone-disrupting, brain-damaging toxins our children absorb from the playground to the kitchen floor, and everywhere in between.

A mother of two, the author is extra-sensitive to the many dangers lurking in her children’s everyday experiences. Though she’s occasionally overly sensitive (“I don’t even like having my kids in the kitchen while pasta is cooking or being drained”), Steingraber writes with clarity about many of the poisonous chemical agents that infest our daily lives—the arsenic that leaches from pressure-treated wood, the pesticides on food, PVCs in the kitchen tiling, asbestos and lead paint—and the unique risks they pose to children. The author capably sketches the background of the toxins, the ways in which we are exposed to them and how she has sought to avoid them in the home. The book gets its rhythm and appeal from the twining of science and personal examples—e.g., the time her husband ripped up the tiles on their kitchen floor, only to find asbestos tiles below that and then lead-based paint below that. When it comes to the politics of it all, Steingraber is bracingly elemental. Because the government has simply not done its job of ensuring domestic environmental tranquility, “[t]he way we protect our kids from terrible knowledge is not to hide the terrible knowledge…but to let them watch us rise up in the face of terrible knowledge and do something.”

An artful commingling of life with children, environmental mayhem and political-science primer. A great companion to Philip and Alice Shabecoff’s Poisoned Profits (2008).

Pub Date: April 22, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-7382-1399-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Merloyd Lawrence/Da Capo

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2011

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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 authoritative, engaging study of plant life, accessible to younger readers as well as adults.

THE INCREDIBLE JOURNEY OF PLANTS

A neurobiologist reveals the interconnectedness of the natural world through stories of plant migration.

In this slim but well-packed book, Mancuso (Plant Science/Univ. of Florence; The Revolutionary Genius of Plants: A New Understanding of Plant Intelligence and Behavior, 2018, etc.) presents an illuminating and surprisingly lively study of plant life. He smoothly balances expansive historical exploration with recent scientific research through stories of how various plant species are capable of migrating to locations throughout the world by means of air, water, and even via animals. They often continue to thrive in spite of dire obstacles and environments. One example is the response of plants following the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. Three decades later, the abandoned “Exclusion Zone” is now entirely covered by an enormous assortment of thriving plants. Mancuso also tracks the journeys of several species that might be regarded as invasive. “Why…do we insist on labeling as ‘invasive’ all those plants that, with great success, have managed to occupy new territories?” asks the author. “On a closer look, the invasive plants of today are the native flora of the future, just as the invasive species of the past are a fundamental part of our ecosystem today.” Throughout, Mancuso persuasively articulates why an understanding and appreciation of how nature is interconnected is vital to the future of our planet. “In nature everything is connected,” he writes. “This simple law that humans don’t seem to understand has a corollary: the extinction of a species, besides being a calamity in and of itself, has unforeseeable consequences for the system to which the species belongs.” The book is not without flaws. The loosely imagined watercolor renderings are vague and fail to effectively complement Mancuso’s richly descriptive prose or satisfy readers’ curiosity. Even without actual photos and maps, it would have been beneficial to readers to include more finely detailed plant and map renderings.

An authoritative, engaging study of plant life, accessible to younger readers as well as adults.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-63542-991-6

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Other Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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