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ONE BLOOD

THE DEATH AND RESURRECTION OF CHARLES R. DREW

A thoughtful and articulate examination of the power—and reality—of myth as an engine of history. Journalist and historian Love explores the life and legend of Charles Drew, an African-American surgeon who made a significant contribution to the development and distribution of blood plasma in the early 1940s and later devoted himself to creating a team of black surgeons who could serve their communities in racially divided America. In 1950, the 45-year-old Drew was grievously injured in a car accident in rural North Carolina and taken to a segregated hospital, where white doctors worked feverishly but unsuccessfully to save his life. Almost overnight, the legend grew up that Drew had died because the hospital had turned him away on account of his race. Despite efforts to dispel it by his family and others who knew the truth, the myth became generally accepted as fact among black Americans, often finding its way into print, including popular biographies of Drew. Love shows that the legend had its basis in the realities of African-American experience, which did, in fact, encompass routine denial of medical care; she describes the case of Maltheus Avery, who died a few months after Drew under circumstances that matched those of the Drew legend. Love explains that the confluence of Drew's identity as a black pioneer in blood research with the reality, both literal and metaphorical, of blacks ``bleeding to death'' as a result of white racism lent itself perfectly to belief in the legend. Without denying the importance of verifiable facts to historical analysis, she persuasively argues that a group's shared memory, even if inaccurate, provides an important guide to the truths of its experience. The book's one flaw is, ironically, that it sometimes gets bogged down in the facts of Drew's and Avery's lives. An illuminating study, not only of black and American history, but of History itself. (36 illustrations, not seen)

Pub Date: Feb. 26, 1996

ISBN: 0-8078-2250-7

Page Count: 398

Publisher: Univ. of North Carolina

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 1995

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

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

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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. 29, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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GOOD ECONOMICS FOR HARD TIMES

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

“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. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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