Intensive, exemplary reportage on a controversial industry cloaked in scandal.

BIG VAPE

THE INCENDIARY RISE OF JUUL

A deep investigative dive into the electronic cigarette behemoth.

In this riveting exposé, Time health and science journalist Ducharme chronicles the history and problematic future of Juul, which quickly rose to prominence after a series of missteps. She profiles friends and former smokers James Monsees and Adam Bowen, who, during a 2005 Stanford product-design program, sought to develop an alternative to traditional tobacco-burning cigarettes. Focusing on harm reduction, they positioned their prototype as a way to “improve the lives of adult smokers” by helping them transition to the supposed safety of vaporizing pens, which heat a liquid but avoid combustion. Piggybacking on lessons from earlier, less-successful vaping devices, Monsees and Bowen, aided by Japanese investors, laid the groundwork for a successful venture—but not without a host of problems that did not go unnoticed by the Food and Drug Administration and would reemerge later to cloud their success. With briskly paced writing, Ducharme details the “buzz-testing” conducted by Juul employees to gauge the addictive potency of the nicotine formulations in the vape pods and how the “cool kids”–friendly product marketing campaign became “the company’s religion.” As the author writes, "more news stories suggested that Juul had torn a page from the Big Tobacco playbook and purposely hooked teenage customers for profit." By 2015, Juul vaporizers were widespread, and the company started to record significant profits. However, when reports of underage users emerged, Juul dispatched representatives to schools to warn about the dangers of nicotine, “sprinkling in references to how safe Juul was and how it was going to get FDA approval any day now.” Juul then partnered with big tobacco corporation Altria, and the emergence of a mysterious pulmonary illness ignited anti-vaping activists and public health watchdogs. In the wake of hundreds of lawsuits set to hit courtrooms in 2022, both Monsees and Bowen have “abandoned ship.” Based on dozens of interviews with former employees, investors, doctors, and researchers, this well-rounded journalistic narrative is consistently informative and alarming.

Intensive, exemplary reportage on a controversial industry cloaked in scandal.

Pub Date: May 25, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-77753-9

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2021

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A welcome addition to the literature on immigration told by an author who understands the issue like few others.

THE UNDOCUMENTED AMERICANS

The debut book from “one of the first undocumented immigrants to graduate from Harvard.”

In addition to delivering memorable portraits of undocumented immigrants residing precariously on Staten Island and in Miami, Cleveland, Flint, and New Haven, Cornejo Villavicencio, now enrolled in the American Studies doctorate program at Yale, shares her own Ecuadorian family story (she came to the U.S. at age 5) and her anger at the exploitation of hardworking immigrants in the U.S. Because the author fully comprehends the perils of undocumented immigrants speaking to journalist, she wisely built trust slowly with her subjects. Her own undocumented status helped the cause, as did her Spanish fluency. Still, she protects those who talked to her by changing their names and other personal information. Consequently, readers must trust implicitly that the author doesn’t invent or embellish. But as she notes, “this book is not a traditional nonfiction book….I took notes by hand during interviews and after the book was finished, I destroyed those notes.” Recounting her travels to the sites where undocumented women, men, and children struggle to live above the poverty line, she reports her findings in compelling, often heart-wrenching vignettes. Cornejo Villavicencio clearly shows how employers often cheat day laborers out of hard-earned wages, and policymakers and law enforcement agents exist primarily to harm rather than assist immigrants who look and speak differently. Often, cruelty arrives not only in economic terms, but also via verbal slurs and even violence. Throughout the narrative, the author explores her own psychological struggles, including her relationships with her parents, who are considered “illegal” in the nation where they have worked hard and tried to become model residents. In some of the most deeply revealing passages, Cornejo Villavicencio chronicles her struggles reconciling her desire to help undocumented children with the knowledge that she does not want "kids of my own." Ultimately, the author’s candor about herself removes worries about the credibility of her stories.

A welcome addition to the literature on immigration told by an author who understands the issue like few others.

Pub Date: May 19, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-399-59268-3

Page Count: 208

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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A fiery, eloquent call to action for White men who want to be on the right side of history.

LETTERS TO MY WHITE MALE FRIENDS

A Black man speaks hard truths to White men about their failure to dismantle systemic racism.

A “child of the Black bourgeoisie,” journalist Ross first learned “the shadow history of Black revolutionary struggle” in college. He accepted that he “directly benefited from the struggle that generations of Black folks had died in the name of, yet I wasn’t doing anything to help those who hadn’t benefited.” The author calls the White men of his generation, Gen X, to also recognize their complicity and miseducation. “We were fed cherry-picked narratives that confirmed the worthlessness of Black life,” he writes, “The euphemistic ‘culture of poverty,’ not systemic oppression, was to blame for the conditions in which so many Black people lived.” The story that White people have been told about Black people is “missing a major chapter,” and Ross thoroughly elucidates that chapter with a sweeping deep dive into decades of American social history and politics that is at once personal, compelling, and damning. Through a series of well-crafted personal letters, the author advises White men to check their motivations and “interrogate the allegedly self-evident, ‘commonsense’ values and beliefs” that perpetuate inequality and allow them to remain blissfully unaware of the insidiousness of racism and the ways they benefit from it. Ross condemns the “pathological unwillingness to connect the past with the present” and boldly avoids the comfortable “both sides” rhetoric that makes anti-racism work more palatable to White people. “It is on you,” he writes, “to challenge the color-blind narratives your parents peddle.” The letters are consistently compelling, covering wide ground that includes the broken criminal justice system, gentrification, and the problem with framing equity work as “charity.” Finally, Ross offers practical guidance and solutions for White men to employ at work, in their communities, and within themselves. Pair this one with Emmanuel Acho’s Uncomfortable Conversations With a Black Man.

A fiery, eloquent call to action for White men who want to be on the right side of history.

Pub Date: June 15, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-27683-4

Page Count: 240

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: April 3, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2021

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