Sure to be one of the best memoirs of 2021.

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SOMEBODY'S DAUGHTER

A MEMOIR

A potent coming-of-age memoir from a popular podcaster and BuzzFeed host.

Growing up in Fort Wayne, Indiana, with an incarcerated father and a dangerously overburdened mother forced the author to develop effective pain management skills. In a book that shares a similar spirit with Tara Westover’s Educated, Ford tells the story of uniquely difficult circumstances with profound insight and detail about the tumults of childhood. “I seemed to have infinite patience for children,” she writes. “Unlike some adults, I never quit remembering what it was like to be one. Their small plights were familiar to me, as were their big feelings.” Readers may also see a connection to Tayari Jones' novel An American Marriage (2018), as both deal with the effect of a long prison sentence on a Black family, albeit from different angles. Ford begins her memoir with a letter from her father that reads, in part, "Ashley, don't take this the wrong way but come next year, I will have been incarcerated for twenty years, which means the letter that you wrote me was the first letter that you have written me in almost twenty years." In the next chapter, a few years later, the author learns that her father is getting out of prison. Because she was so young when he was incarcerated, her feelings about him were based mainly on the adoring letters she received over the years. Her father's unshakeable belief in her became her inner refuge from the tension, rage, and violence that dogged her childhood. As a child, she did not know what his crime was—and neither will readers for many chapters. Ford creates fully three-dimensional portraits of her mother, grandmother, and other key players, using a child's-eye view to show us their failings and the calculations, negotiations, and survival tactics she developed in response to them.

Sure to be one of the best memoirs of 2021.

Pub Date: June 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-30597-8

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: March 23, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2021

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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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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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