A book Talbot likely wrote mainly for himself, but it should provide inspiration for others facing similar challenges.

BETWEEN HEAVEN AND HELL

THE STORY OF MY STROKE

A near-death, new-life memoir by the San Francisco author and founder of Salon.

In short chapters that had their genesis on Facebook, Talbot (The Devil's Chessboard: Allen Dulles, the CIA, and the Rise of America's Secret Government, 2015, etc.) recounts a year of recovery, upheaval, and transformation following the stroke that almost killed him. He also reflects on the pace of the stress-filled career that brought him to this precipice, in his mid-60s, while he was still trying to navigate his way through considerable Hollywood challenges in attempting to bring his books to the screen. As the hard-charging CEO and editor-in-chief of Salon, he championed progressive investigative journalism at a time when the industry was heading toward a financial abyss. “I believed then that Salon was worth dying for. We were caught up in history’s hurricane,” he writes, with the somewhat messianic self-importance that occasionally typifies his tone. (Talbot also compares himself to the revered mystic monk Thomas Merton, though “not religious.”) Though the author is a Type A personality in overdrive, his lessons should strike a responsive chord in many readers. “My stroke did not just change my life,” he writes. “It saved my life.” By necessity, he slowed down, he lost a lot of weight, and he pared his existence down to the essentials and became focused on what really matters. He made his peace with death. He learned to “live each moment like it’s your last, because it just might be. Embrace your mortality. Even celebrate it. And let the shadow of death make the light in your life only seem brighter.” These are the sort of sentiments upon which countless self-help books are constructed, but Talbot demonstrates the conviction of someone who has been there and back and now knows what is really at stake.

A book Talbot likely wrote mainly for himself, but it should provide inspiration for others facing similar challenges.

Pub Date: Jan. 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4521-8333-6

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Chronicle Prism

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2019

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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 standout immigrant coming-of-age story.

THE DISTANCE BETWEEN US

A MEMOIR

In her first nonfiction book, novelist Grande (Dancing with Butterflies, 2009, etc.) delves into her family’s cycle of separation and reunification.

Raised in poverty so severe that spaghetti reminded her of the tapeworms endemic to children in her Mexican hometown, the author is her family’s only college graduate and writer, whose honors include an American Book Award and International Latino Book Award. Though she was too young to remember her father when he entered the United States illegally seeking money to improve life for his family, she idolized him from afar. However, she also blamed him for taking away her mother after he sent for her when the author was not yet 5 years old. Though she emulated her sister, she ultimately answered to herself, and both siblings constantly sought affirmation of their parents’ love, whether they were present or not. When one caused disappointment, the siblings focused their hopes on the other. These contradictions prove to be the narrator’s hallmarks, as she consistently displays a fierce willingness to ask tough questions, accept startling answers, and candidly render emotional and physical violence. Even as a girl, Grande understood the redemptive power of language to define—in the U.S., her name’s literal translation, “big queen,” led to ridicule from other children—and to complicate. In spelling class, when a teacher used the sentence “my mamá loves me” (mi mamá me ama), Grande decided to “rearrange the words so that they formed a question: ¿Me ama mi mamá? Does my mama love me?”

A standout immigrant coming-of-age story.

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4516-6177-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: June 12, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2012

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