A difficult yet important read.

WHAT GOD IS HONORED HERE?

WRITINGS ON MISCARRIAGE AND INFANT LOSS BY AND FOR NATIVE WOMEN AND WOMEN OF COLOR

A profound collection reflecting the contributors’ “claim on [their] lives as indigenous women and women of color who have experienced infant and fetal loss, in its many forms.”

Though each piece of this collection—edited by Gibney (See No Color, 2015) and Yang (The Song Poet: A Memoir of My Father, 2016, etc.)—shares the common theme of infant mortality, each woman’s story grips readers with its individuality and its gut-wrenching pain and sorrow. These tales of loss—from miscarriage, stillbirth, misdiagnosis, ectopic pregnancies, and sudden infant death—all carry the weight of the woman’s heartbreak. They also show abundant love and the honor they felt to be pregnant, regardless of the outcome. Some tales are straightforward and read like a medical history while others ponder the spirituality of life and death. Some women still sense the movement of their child inside them, even after having other children. “According to the Center for Disease Control, in the general population of the United States, 15 to 20 percent of pregnant women will experience a miscarriage in their lifetime,” write the editors in the introduction. The numbers grow disproportionately higher for women of color, which means that many women will readily empathize with the thoughts and feelings of these talented writers and poets who effectively transform their significant internal pain into inspiring art. The narratives are complex and can produce feelings of tension and anxiety, but that only speaks to the quality of the writing. Their trauma will affect each reader differently, but it’s guaranteed that no one will walk away unmoved. “Grief and total desperation joined me to so many women,” writes Sarah Agaton Howes, and continues, “they surround me with their stories, their hands, their laughter, their bitterness, and their sheer determination to not die. I came from this legacy of sadness. But I also came from their legacy of survival.”

A difficult yet important read.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5179-0793-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Univ. of Minnesota

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2019

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A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

GOOD ECONOMICS FOR HARD TIMES

“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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