A warm, unique memoir about coping with disease.

MS Madness!

A "GIGGLE MORE, CRY LESS" STORY OF MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS

DeSousa’s debut memoir chronicles her first year living with multiple sclerosis and some of the lessons she learned along the way.

DeSousa looks to infuse humor and wit into her life-changing first year with MS. Her vivid, accessible voice is a strength of her book, and she puts a humorous spin on the debilitating disease to cope with its effects on her body. While the irreverence is a hook, it also subtly serves to demystify some of the most confusing aspects of MS, a condition still misunderstood. Explanations about the effects on muscles, cognitive function and even hearing give readers insight into some of the daily struggles of those living with MS. The humor, however, sometimes overshadows the narrative arc and structure of the book. It’s wonderful to be able to hear the author’s voice so clearly, but at times it assumes a rambling, almost too-casual quality that attempts several conversational paths without sticking to one, leaving the reader a little befuddled. Likewise, many anecdotes about DeSousa’s everyday life—working at a medical office, teaching at Sunday school, eating junk food, getting over an ex-boyfriend—can be honed and trimmed. On the whole, DeSousa is personable and engaging. For instance, in a slightly too-long section about halfway through the book, the author describes cooking a recommended vegetable dish because cookies “aren’t very healthy.” The author’s grace shines through even in quieter moments, and those qualities shape the work just as much as the humor. The final chapter advises her readers that, “It is okay to be really really mad at this obnoxious, damaging, and weird disease….But moving forward is something I insist on.”

A warm, unique memoir about coping with disease.

Pub Date: Feb. 20, 2014

ISBN: 978-0989972369

Page Count: 240

Publisher: SDP Publishing

Review Posted Online: March 27, 2014

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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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A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

INTO THE WILD

The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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