A fascinating magic trick of a memoir that illuminates a woman's search for meaning.

WHITE MAGIC

ESSAYS

A Cowlitz woman’s collection of interconnected essays on memory, nostalgia, and introspection, conveyed through personal history, popular culture, and magic.

Washuta begins with an account of her history with magic and witchcraft growing up. "The truth is I'm not a witch, exactly: I'm a person with prayers, a person who believes in spirits and plays with fire,” she writes. The author’s story is also one of personal healing, as she writes candidly about her abuse of alcohol, being misdiagnosed as bipolar, and suffering from PTSD. Across 10 interwoven essays that move through Washuta’s life, she uses popular-culture references—e.g., Fleetwood Mac, Twin Peaks, and the video game “Oregon Trail II”—as guideposts in her own journey of understanding the world and her place in it. Washuta shifts her focus frequently (perhaps too much for some readers), from the history of the Seattle area to an in-depth discussion of horror movies to her search for an anti-drinking educational video she though she saw as a teen. At the same time, she investigates the connections among magic, witchcraft, and her Native heritage. The book breaks from traditional memoir in intriguing ways, including footnotes that speak directly to readers and an essay that begins by focusing on Twin Peaks and then slowly begins to emulate it, moving back and forth through time and showing the changing nature of narrative across shifting time frames. Throughout, Washuta is consistently honest about her own past and opinions, and she is unafraid to directly question readers, demanding engagement with the text. “This book is a narrative,” she writes. “It has an arc. But the tension is not in what happened when I lived it; it’s in what happened when I wrote it. Like I already told you, this is not just a recounted story; I am trying to make something happen and record the process and results.”

A fascinating magic trick of a memoir that illuminates a woman's search for meaning.

Pub Date: April 27, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-951142-39-1

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Tin House

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 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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