A simple but moving story about the double-edged sword of precocious athletic talent and the redemptive power of teamwork.

SHOOTING STARS

NBA superstar James and Vanity Fair contributor and acclaimed sportswriter Bissinger (Three Nights in August, 2005, etc.) profile James’s championship high-school basketball team.

Although Bissinger’s authorial stamp can be somewhat heavy at times, there’s still plenty of conversational snap in James’s modest but passionate first-person voice. The co-authors adequately humanize all five starting members of Ohio’s St.Vincent-St. Mary Shooting Stars. Of course James is the focus here, and he provides ample biographical details about his fatherless upbringing in the Akron housing projects. James proved to be not only a gifted athlete—effortlessly excelling in both football and basketball—but also an honor-roll student. His teammates were an eccentric mixed bag, but all hailed from economically underprivileged backgrounds and ended up on scholarship at the mostly white private high school. As a result, they were often considered traitors by the black community, while never feeling wholly accepted in white society. It was James’s remarkable individual play that eventually brought national attention to the team. During his senior season, he was on the cover of Sports Illustrated, and suddenly his team was pushed into the national spotlight—with all the attendant accolades, pressures and pitfalls. When James accepted $850 in merchandise from a local Cleveland clothing shop—in violation of an obscure and rarely enforced rule—he was temporarily suspended and then dragged into a court hearing. The inspirational heart of the book is James and his teammates’ gutsy performance in the face of the tornado-like media frenzy. The co-authors dramatically re-create the minute-by-minute highlights of key games in St.V’s national-championship drive, but they also interject some serious social commentary on the vindictiveness, greed and exploitation that can infect the seemingly pristine world of amateur sports.

A simple but moving story about the double-edged sword of precocious athletic talent and the redemptive power of teamwork.

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-59420-232-2

Page Count: 260

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2009

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A potent depiction of grief, but also a book lacking the originality and acerbic prose that distinguished Didion’s earlier...

  • Pulitzer Prize Finalist

  • National Book Award Winner

  • National Book Critics Circle Finalist

THE YEAR OF MAGICAL THINKING

A moving record of Didion’s effort to survive the death of her husband and the near-fatal illness of her only daughter.

In late December 2003, Didion (Where I Was From, 2003, etc.) saw her daughter, Quintana Roo Dunne, hospitalized with a severe case of pneumonia, the lingering effects of which would threaten the young woman’s life for several months to come. As her daughter struggled in a New York ICU, Didion’s husband, John Gregory Dunne, suffered a massive heart attack and died on the night of December 30, 2003. For 40 years, Didion and Dunne shared their lives and work in a marriage of remarkable intimacy and endurance. In the wake of Dunne’s death, Didion found herself unable to accept her loss. By “magical thinking,” Didion refers to the ruses of self-deception through which the bereaved seek to shield themselves from grief—being unwilling, for example, to donate a dead husband’s clothes because of the tacit awareness that it would mean acknowledging his final departure. As a poignant and ultimately doomed effort to deny reality through fiction, that magical thinking has much in common with the delusions Didion has chronicled in her several previous collections of essays. But perhaps because it is a work of such intense personal emotion, this memoir lacks the mordant bite of her earlier work. In the classics Slouching Toward Bethlehem (1968) and The White Album (1979), Didion linked her personal anxieties to her withering dissection of a misguided culture prey to its own self-gratifying fantasies. This latest work concentrates almost entirely on the author’s personal suffering and confusion—even her husband and daughter make but fleeting appearances—without connecting them to the larger public delusions that have been her special terrain.

A potent depiction of grief, but also a book lacking the originality and acerbic prose that distinguished Didion’s earlier writing.

Pub Date: Oct. 19, 2005

ISBN: 1-4000-4314-X

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2005

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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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