THE SKINNY ON FAT

OUR OBSESSION WITH WEIGHT CONTROL

A bright and lively study on weight control, featuring research into the genetic basis of obesity, past and future drug treatments, self-help diet gurus, and the efforts of the size-acceptance movement to change a fat-unfriendly world. Science writer Vogel (Naked Earth: The New Geophysics, 1995) tackles the weight issue from a variety of angles, interviewing molecular biologists and obesity researchers, as well as activists from the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance (NAAFA) and promoters of religious-based diet programs. What she creates is a picture of a culture obsessed with the subject of weight control. She relates key developments in the search for an understanding of the role of genes in weight control, making clear that genes provide only the propensity for obesity and that our own habits are what make the difference. Vogel also explores two somewhat contradictory concepts currently in favor: one that obesity is a chronic disease requiring not a quick-weight-loss solution but long-term treatment, and the other that the focus of treatment should not be on reducing fatness but on promoting metabolic fitness. While some might be tempted to find humor in NAAFA activists’ attempts to make being fat acceptable or in Gwen Shamblin’s Christian-based diet program, Weigh Down, which asks participants to convert their love of food into love for God, Vogel treats these subjects with the same seriousness and respect she affords to scientific researchers. Everyone, it seems, is groping with a complex puzzle that has not yielded itself up to solution. In sum, Vogel reports, there is much still to be learned about how different bodies control weight, and the discoveries that scientists in their labs may come up with will still have to be acted upon by human beings living in a weight-obsessed world. Not another how-to, but a clear and informative guide to the larger issues involved in weight control.

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-7167-3091-X

Page Count: 254

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1999

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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 absorbing, wide-ranging story of humans’ relationship with the water.

WHY WE SWIM

A study of swimming as sport, survival method, basis for community, and route to physical and mental well-being.

For Bay Area writer Tsui (American Chinatown: A People's History of Five Neighborhoods, 2009), swimming is in her blood. As she recounts, her parents met in a Hong Kong swimming pool, and she often visited the beach as a child and competed on a swim team in high school. Midway through the engaging narrative, the author explains how she rejoined the team at age 40, just as her 6-year-old was signing up for the first time. Chronicling her interviews with scientists and swimmers alike, Tsui notes the many health benefits of swimming, some of which are mental. Swimmers often achieve the “flow” state and get their best ideas while in the water. Her travels took her from the California coast, where she dove for abalone and swam from Alcatraz back to San Francisco, to Tokyo, where she heard about the “samurai swimming” martial arts tradition. In Iceland, she met Guðlaugur Friðþórsson, a local celebrity who, in 1984, survived six hours in a winter sea after his fishing vessel capsized, earning him the nickname “the human seal.” Although humans are generally adapted to life on land, the author discovered that some have extra advantages in the water. The Bajau people of Indonesia, for instance, can do 10-minute free dives while hunting because their spleens are 50% larger than average. For most, though, it’s simply a matter of practice. Tsui discussed swimming with Dara Torres, who became the oldest Olympic swimmer at age 41, and swam with Kim Chambers, one of the few people to complete the daunting Oceans Seven marathon swim challenge. Drawing on personal experience, history, biology, and social science, the author conveys the appeal of “an unflinching giving-over to an element” and makes a convincing case for broader access to swimming education (372,000 people still drown annually).

An absorbing, wide-ranging story of humans’ relationship with the water.

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-61620-786-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: Jan. 5, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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