A soft-pedaling history that packs a lot of synthesis into a palatable-enough package.

THE SUBTLE BODY

THE STORY OF YOGA IN AMERICA

An all-encompassing survey of how the Eastern practice took hold in America.

On the heels of Robert Love’s The Great Oom (2010)—an entertaining portrait of early yoga impresario Pierre Bernard and his popular health center—journalist Syman casts a wider net, uncovering yoga’s growth since the mid-19th century. In tackling the challenge of how to define yoga, the author’s study suffers from a kind of amorphous, throw-in-the-kitchen-sink syndrome. Syman continually probes into whether yoga is a religion or a health practice, and traces how proponents from Ralph Waldo Emerson to the Beatles fashioned it in their own way. Emerson’s discovery of “Hindoo” scriptures led to a lifelong fascination with Eastern thought, helping shape the transcendental message in his writings and poetry, while Thoreau’s Walden was the product of an ascetic in the yogi tradition. Thoreau “transmuted his work into an act of devotion,” writes the author, and “made a religion of writing.” Eastern gurus like Swami Vivekananda were featured at the World Parliament of Religions at the Chicago Columbian Exposition of 1893, and invited to teach at places like Green Acre, Maine, attracting mostly women. Bernard spread the benefits of Hatha Yoga—involving physically demanding breathing and body positions—from San Francisco to New York, and his nephew Theos Bernard traveled to the source, India and Tibet, and wrote popular books on the subject. Even Woodrow Wilson’s daughter Margaret eschewed the conventional lot for an “ideal life” as a seeker in India. Once yoga hit Hollywood, thanks to itinerant ex-pat Brits Gerald Heard and the Huxleys, stars like Gloria Swanson used it famously as their “youth and beauty secret.” Syman moves fluidly through the heady psychedelic years to the “new penitents” of today (e.g., Bikram), who like their yoga “sweaty and religious.”

A soft-pedaling history that packs a lot of synthesis into a palatable-enough package.

Pub Date: June 29, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-374-23676-2

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Dec. 26, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2010

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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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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