Genre: Biography & Autobiography

Book Review: Chernobyl Strawberries: A Memoir by Vesna Goldsworthy

Posted June 25, 2015 by Hillary in Book Reviews / 0 Comments

I received this book for free from netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

ISBN: 9781843544142
Book Review: Chernobyl Strawberries: A Memoir by Vesna GoldsworthyChernobyl strawberries by Vesna Goldsworthy
Published by Atlantic on 2005
Genres: Great Britain, Serbs, Social life and customs, Television journalists, Yugoslavia, Yugoslavs, Biography & Autobiography, General, Social Science, Customs & Traditions
Pages: 290
Format: eARC
Source: netgalley
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
three-stars

How would you make sense of your life if you thought it might end tomorrow? Vesna Goldsworthy's formative years were a breeze - a pampered child of the Serbian middle class, a top student at Belgrade University, a presenter of a fashionable radio programme and a poet who performed her work to a crowd of thirty thousand people. At the age of twenty-four she left Yogoslavia for London, confident that she would be just as good at being English. But then, more than a decade later, illness invaded. In prose that is exquisite in its precision, Vesna tells the story of herself, her family and her lost country. Although purportedly an account of forty years in the life of a passionate woman, Chernobyl Strawberries traffics in the births and deaths of whole worlds. Vesna Goldsworthy's captivating memoir about exile, love and motherhood marks the emergence of a gorgeous new literary talent.

why I read this book

I was browsing NetGalley when I saw this title. I thought it was going be a gritty memoir about what I have no idea. The aftermath of a nuclear fallout, maybe?

my review

 

I must admit that I went into this expecting a gritty memoir. I did not get it. It is a memoir where nothing much happens. She says that she wrote this book for her son when she was diagnosed with cancer. I have no problem with that but still. She had a normal happy childhood in Yugoslavia, and she talks at lent about that. I had a more  growing up in the Appalachian Mountains but ok. It was hard to get into this book. I would have DNF’ed it but as a review book I felt obligated to finish it. It did pick up steam when she talks about the war for her BBC radio show. I really liked that part. The rest of it meh. I finally made me a tall glass of a hurricane drink to plow through it. Once properly inebriated I found some sort of poetic beauty in her words. I saw what she was trying to do. Paint a picture of what everyday communism was really like. We hear horror stories about it every day but this was like a sweet gentle lullaby. Until the war part but even that as she was in England it was sort of a detached vibe. Maybe if I went into it with no expectations it would have been different but alas.

it-was-ok

three-stars
Hillary

About Hillary

I am a book lover who loves to read and write. I only leave my apartment for food and MOAR books. I love to meet new people online so don't be afraid to say hi!

Book Review: Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamison

Posted May 26, 2015 by Hillary in Book Reviews / 0 Comments

Book Review: Empathy Exams by Leslie JamisonThe Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamison
Published by Graywolf Press on April 1st 2014
Genres: Biography & Autobiography, Essays, Literary, Literary Collections
Pages: 256
Format: ebook
Source: library
Goodreads
five-stars

From personal loss to phantom diseases, The Empathy Exams is a bold and brilliant collection, winner of the Graywolf Press Nonfiction PrizeA Publishers Weekly Top Ten Essay Collection of Spring 2014Beginning with her experience as a medical actor who was paid to act out symptoms for medical students to diagnose, Leslie Jamison's visceral and revealing essays ask essential questions about our basic understanding of others: How should we care about each other? How can we feel another's pain, especially when pain can be assumed, distorted, or performed? Is empathy a tool by which to test or even grade each other? By confronting pain--real and imagined, her own and others'--Jamison uncovers a personal and cultural urgency to feel. She draws from her own experiences of illness and bodily injury to engage in an exploration that extends far beyond her life, spanning wide-ranging territory--from poverty tourism to phantom diseases, street violence to reality television, illness to incarceration--in its search for a kind of sight shaped by humility and grace.

why I read this book

Many bloggers who opinions and reviews I trust raved about this book, so I just HAD to read it to see what all the hype was about. Plus I love essays, so that was a big plus.

my review

This book started out with Leslie Jamison writing about her role in acting with teaching in training Drs on how to be empathic. My first reaction when reading this was, they teach that I wonder how some of the Drs that I have had got past that one. I have had bad experiences with some Dr’s. Can you tell?

ANYWAY she goes into the role about how they have a script and stuff and how they rate DRS on empathy. At first I was like, I wonder how this book got to be so popular? Then I kept on reading, and Leslie Jamison does a good job on turning the topic of empathy on its head. I love how she takes what happened to her in her life and then tries to apply empathy to it. Like in one essay she talks about how she was attacked in a central American country and while a lot of people would end up putting the whole country on their shit list she writes and explores how she could be more empathic to the person who attacked her. I must admit that that one was my favorite as I have spent some time in Africa and while I was never attacked, After reading this I also feel that I missed the empathy boat.

After reading this I have found myself trying to be more empathic to people around me. After all there are different sides to a situation. Who is to say one side is more valid than another?

I have recommended this book to everyone I know. I feel that lots of people will benefit from this book and the over lying message. This is definitely going to be one of my top 10 books this year.

five-stars
Hillary

About Hillary

I am a book lover who loves to read and write. I only leave my apartment for food and MOAR books. I love to meet new people online so don't be afraid to say hi!

Book Review:Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith by Anne Lamott

Posted February 9, 2015 by Hillary in Book Reviews / 0 Comments

ISBN: 9780385496094
Book Review:Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith by Anne LamottTraveling Mercies by Anne Lamott
Published by Anchor Books on February 1st 2000
Genres: Biography & Autobiography, Literary, Religious, Women
Pages: 275
Format: hardcover
Source: own
Goodreads
five-stars

From the bestselling author of Operating Instructions and Bird by Birdcomes a chronicle of faith and spirituality that is at once tough, personal, affectionate, wise and very funny. With an exuberant mix of passion, insight, and humor, Anne Lamott takes us on a journey through her often troubled past to illuminate her devout but quirky walk of faith. In a narrative spiced with stories and scripture, with diatribes, laughter, and tears, Lamott tells how, against all odds, she came to believe in God and then, even more miraculously, in herself. She shows us the myriad ways in which this sustains and guides her, shining the light of faith on the darkest part of ordinary life and exposing surprising pockets of meaning and hope. Whether writing about her family or her dreadlocks, sick children or old friends, the most religious women of her church or the men she's dated, Lamott reveals the hard-won wisdom gathered along her path to connectedness and liberation.

why I read this book

 

All of last year my faith took a very serious nosedive. I am trying to build it back up to where it was but I was not in the mood for a “preachy” book and I LOVED her book Bird by Bird so I decided to pick this book up.

 

my review

 

When you thinks about Christian writers most of the time we conjure up someone who has never had any problems and is very into the rules. Traveling Mercies is a breath of fresh air in the Christian book industry. Anne Lamott talks about overcoming her drug and drinking issues. She does not hold back in any way and you never get the feeling that she has such holiness that you feel like throwing the book across the wall and that you can’t possibly meet that level.

She also talks about getting pregnant and her son and about being a mother. I do not have kids but I love her honesty about the things she does and the mistakes she makes. It seems that I am surrounded by perfect mothers and I know if I ever had a kid I would probably lose my cool more often than not. To read about this kind of mother and to know her kid turned out OK gives me hope.

While reading this book I wondered why I couldn’t be exposed to some of the more liberal religious people that she is. I grew up in Eastern Ky and all my life it has been who can follow the rules in the bible the best. Anne Lamott is surrounded by people that seem to GET life in this fallen world.

Over all I loved this book and would recommend it to anyone who feels more like a sinner than a saint.

loved-it

five-stars
Hillary

About Hillary

I am a book lover who loves to read and write. I only leave my apartment for food and MOAR books. I love to meet new people online so don't be afraid to say hi!

Detour from Normal

Posted February 2, 2015 by Hillary in book review / 0 Comments

ISBN: 9781491248638
This book may be unsuitable for people under 17 years of age due to its use of sexual content, drug and alcohol use, and/or violence.
Detour from NormalDetour from Normal by Ken Dickson
Published by CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform on December 12th 2013
Genres: Biography & Autobiography, Personal Memoirs
Pages: 372
Format: eARC
Source: netgalley
Goodreads
three-stars

Before April 14, 2011, Ken Dickson lived a life indistinguishable from those of other residents of his Phoenix suburb. The normally healthy fifty-five year-old held a regular job, and lived with his loving wife, two teenage daughters, and an assortment of pets. On that mid-April day, though, the course of his life forever changes when he learns he must undergo surgery to remove a damaged portion of his lower intestine.The life-saving surgery and associated medications become catalysts for an unbelievable chain of events that cause the formerly mild-mannered man to spiral into the chaotic mental illness known as mania. Dickson is then subjected to a whirlwind of trips to emergency rooms, hospitals and ultimately, psychiatric facilities where he finds himself deep in an inescapable abyss of mental illness.Part medical mystery, and part psychological thriller, Dickson's creative nonfiction memoir, Detour from Normal, demonstrates how even the most seemingly normal life can implode in an instant. It is a riveting account of undying love and brutal anguish, of lies and arrogance, and of unforgettable characters and desperate actions.In an age when there is utmost concern about the quality of mental health care, the timing couldn't be better for this informative and inspirational memoir. Told from the real-life perspective of someone with mental illness, readers will observe first-hand the adverse reactions to medications, misdiagnoses, improper treatment, and other factors that work together to send Dickson spiraling into a seemingly inescapable hell.Despite overwhelming obstacles, Dickson struggles bravely to reclaim the life he has lost. His journey proves to be a perilous one of unexpected discovery, and from its foretelling opening pages to its unpredictable climax, it never ceases to be fascinating, enlightening and thought provoking.

why I read this book

I have experienced mania from Bipolar and I am always curious when some one else experiences something like mania or depression.

my review

First of all I have to be honest and admit that the writing was not the best in this book. However I was curious about how he handled his mania episode so I ignored that and read on.

He first details the illness that had preceded the mania episode then details his decent into mania. Aside form not sleeping I have to say we had two very different experiences. I liked reading about how describes his decent into mania. At first I was sure that he had undiagnosed bipolar and almost every book I have read by someone with bipolar the prose sings. It is like a cursed gift. You get words from the angels but you pay a dark price for it and this…well it was mostly choppy and disjointed.

I felt kinda bad that it seemed that no Dr were really able to help him. In hindsight I can see why. He had no history of mental illness and no family history so it probably never even entered their minds. I have to be honest, I kept waiting for the diagnoses of bipolar to come and I was more than a little irked when he refused to take his medication. I wanted to reach through my kindle and shake him and tell him, honestly the sooner you take it the sooner your nightmare will be over. So yes I had my jugdey glasses on.

At the end when he has recovered from the ordeal I was shocked to find out the real cause of his mania. I have never heard of this cause even though I have read memoirs like this since 2007.

The story was good but like I said the writing was choppy and disjointed. It made it hard to read at times. Other than that it is an interesting memoir.

it-was-ok

three-stars
Hillary

About Hillary

I am a book lover who loves to read and write. I only leave my apartment for food and MOAR books. I love to meet new people online so don't be afraid to say hi!

My Age of Anxiety

Posted January 16, 2015 by Hillary in Book Reviews / 0 Comments

My Age of AnxietyMy Age of Anxiety by Scott Stossel
Published by Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group on 2014
Genres: Anxieties & Phobias, Biography & Autobiography, History, Neuropsychology, Personal Memoirs, Psychology, Psychopathology
Pages: 400
Goodreads
five-stars

A riveting, revelatory, and moving account of the author's struggles with anxiety, and of the history of efforts by scientists, philosophers, and writers to understand the condition As recently as thirty-five years ago, anxiety did not exist as a diagnostic category. Today, it is the most common form of officially classified mental illness. Scott Stossel gracefully guides us across the terrain of an affliction that is pervasive yet too often misunderstood. Drawing on his own long-standing battle with anxiety, Stossel presents an astonishing history, at once intimate and authoritative, of the efforts to understand the condition from medical, cultural, philosophical, and experiential perspectives. He ranges from the earliest medical reports of Galen and Hippocrates, through later observations by Robert Burton and Søren Kierkegaard, to the investigations by great nineteenth-century scientists, such as Charles Darwin, William James, and Sigmund Freud, as they began to explore its sources and causes, to the latest research by neuroscientists and geneticists. Stossel reports on famous individuals who struggled with anxiety, as well as on the afflicted generations of his own family. His portrait of anxiety reveals not only the emotion's myriad manifestations and the anguish anxiety produces but also the countless psychotherapies, medications, and other (often outlandish) treatments that have been developed to counteract it. Stossel vividly depicts anxiety's human toll—its crippling impact, its devastating power to paralyze—while at the same time exploring how those who suffer from it find ways to manage and control it. My Age of Anxiety is learned and empathetic, humorous and inspirational, offering the reader great insight into the biological, cultural, and environmental factors that contribute to the affliction.


why I read this book

 

I suffer from anxiety and I wanted to see how another person copes with it.

my review

 

I was never anxious as a child. Well I was afraid of the dark but that’s about all. Then in 2007 I was diagnosed with shizoeffective disorder and all the anxiety that I didn’t have come on all at once. I became so anxious that I became house bound and convinced that all of creation was plotting my demise.

I have tried to tell friends but their advice of just suck it up and get over it never did much good. So lately I have turned to books that have been written by people with anxiety in the hopes that they have found a way to thrive because of it.

I could relate to My Age of Anxiety in so many ways. Reading the authors account of anxiety attacks was like a peek into my own personal hell. He described it so well that I had an attack while reading. Alas like me the author has tried all the therapy and all the meds available but none seem to work really well. What we both have found works is when you feel an attack come on, cram all different sorts of meds in your mouth to hopefully pass out and when you wake your nervous system will be reset. Well, I feel less alone now that I know that at least one other person has popped Klopioion, vodka and other stuff to do this.

Also, like me, the author has tried less orthodox means. This mostly includes smoking pot. I have found that this is the holy grail of anxiety treatment. The author did not seem to have my  success with it. Just goes to show that everyone is different.

I also liked the history that The Age of Anxiety delivers. I never much thought about how people in ancient Greece handle anxiety and I really never thought about how anxiety seems to afflict people in artistic endeavors more than any other field. It was all very interesting to read. It could have been boring but the author has the skill to make even the mundane come to life.

loved-it

Buy

Amazon

five-stars
Hillary

About Hillary

I am a book lover who loves to read and write. I only leave my apartment for food and MOAR books. I love to meet new people online so don't be afraid to say hi!

Hyperbole and a Half

Posted November 11, 2014 by Hillary in book review / 0 Comments

ISBN: 9781451666175
Hyperbole and a HalfHyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh
Published by Simon and Schuster on 2013-10-29
Genres: Adult, Biography & Autobiography, Comic Strips & Cartoons, Comics & Graphic Novels, Form, General, Humor, Nonfiction, Personal Memoirs, Topic
Pages: 384
Format: ebook
Source: Scribed
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
five-stars

FROM THE PUBLISHER:Every time Allie Brosh posts something new on her hugely popular blog Hyperbole and a Half the internet rejoices. Touching, absurd, and darkly comic, Allie Brosh’s highly anticipated book Hyperbole and a Half showcases her unique voice, leaping wit, and her ability to capture complex emotions with deceptively simple illustrations. This full-color, beautifully illustrated edition features more than fifty percent new content, with ten never-before-seen essays and one wholly revised and expanded piece as well as classics from the website like, “The God of Cake,” “Dogs Don’t Understand Basic Concepts Like Moving,” and her astonishing, “Adventures in Depression,” and “Depression Part Two,” which have been hailed as some of the most insightful meditations on the disease ever written. Brosh’s debut marks the launch of a major new American humorist who will surely make even the biggest scrooge or snob laugh. We dare you not to. FROM THE AUTHOR:This is a book I wrote. Because I wrote it, I had to figure out what to put on the back cover to explain what it is. I tried to write a long, third-person summary that would imply how great the book is and also sound vaguely authoritative—like maybe someone who isn’t me wrote it—but I soon discovered that I’m not sneaky enough to pull it off convincingly. So I decided to just make a list of things that are in the book:PicturesWordsStories about things that happened to meStories about things that happened to other people because of meEight billion dollars*Stories about dogsThe secret to eternal happiness**These are lies. Perhaps I have underestimated my sneakiness!

My Review 2

When I first found the blog Hyperbole and a Half I thought it was brilliant. However, when she posted about her depression I finally felt that someone put into words just how I feel. I have tried to explain to people the depths of depression, but it seemed that nobody could REALLY get it.

Reading this book felt like I was talking to a kindred soul. She explains herself honestly and with humour. I could so relate to so many things that she said. She explains how she KNOWS what she is doing is stupid but she couldn’t seem to find a way out.

One of the things that really cracked me up was when she talked about deciding to do laundry but only made it as far as her couch then let it sit for weeks. I thought that only happned to me. I felt better reconizing myself in this book. If you want an honest raw look into what depression is then read this book.

five-stars
Hillary

About Hillary

I am a book lover who loves to read and write. I only leave my apartment for food and MOAR books. I love to meet new people online so don't be afraid to say hi!

Book Review: The Confidence Code

Posted October 3, 2014 by Hillary in book review / 0 Comments

Book Review: The Confidence CodeThe Confidence Code by Katty KayClaire Shipman
Published by Harper Collins on 2014-04-15
Genres: Biography & Autobiography, Business & Economics, Careers, General, Personal Memoirs, Women, Women in Business
Pages: 256
Format: ebook
Goodreads
three-half-stars

Confidence. We want it. We need it. But it can be maddeningly enigmatic and out of reach. The authors of the New York Times bestseller Womenomics deconstruct this essential, elusive, and misunderstood quality and offer a blueprint for bringing more of it into our lives.Is confidence hardwired into the DNA of a lucky few—or can anyone learn it? Is it best expressed by bravado, or is there another way to show confidence? Which is more important: confidence or competence? Why do so many women, even the most successful, struggle with feelings of self-doubt? Is there a secret to channeling our inner confidence?In The Confidence Code, journalists Katty Kay and Claire Shipman travel to the frontiers of neuroscience on a hunt for the confidence gene and reveal surprising new research on its roots in our brains. They visit the world's leading psychologists who explain how we can all chose to become more confident simply by taking action and courting risk, and how those actions change our physical wiring. They interview women leaders from the worlds of politics, sports, the military, and the arts to learn how they have tapped into this elemental resource. They examine how a lack of confidence impacts our leadership, success, and fulfillment.Ultimately, they argue, while confidence is partly influenced by genetics, it is not a fixed psychological state. That's the good news. You won't discover it by thinking positive thoughts or by telling yourself (or your children) that you are perfect as you are. You also won't find it by simply squaring your shoulders and faking it. But it does require a choice: less people pleasing and perfectionism and more action, risk taking, and fast failure.Inspiring, insightful, and persuasive, The Confidence Code shows that by acting on our best instincts and by daring to be authentic, women can feel the transformative power of a life on confidence.

It seems like a lot of successful women are coming out with books. There is Lean In  and Thrive among others. This book is different however in that it talks about women who are successful but still lack the confidence in themselves. First the authors describe what confidence means. It has a different meaning in what I thought it did. Then they interview different women in different fields to see if they had confidence in themselves. All were successful so that was not the issue. What was surprising was that many women felt that they lack confidence. They may show confidence to other people but inside of themselves they still felt insecure.

I was surprised to learn this and in many ways I can relate. No matter how successful I may be I still feel like an imposter just like the women in this book. They had some tips on how to gain confidence. They also acknowledged that society is set up to make women feel like no matter what she does she is failing in some ways. If she is successful in work, she is a bad mother. If she is a stay at home mom then she is not pulling her fair share of the work. We have a long way to go in making sure women are truly equal in whatever she chooses to do. With feminism being in the news recently this is a good time to have such a discussion.

I myself choose to throw myself into my work, but I STILL get questions about do I have a boyfriend, when am I going to have kids etc. I am never sure how to answer these questions so I usually make up a comeback how women who stay at home were not really pulling their weight. I have to admit, I answer this question from a place of insecurity. Am I a failure because I don’t want kids? Why is it so important anyway?

We as a society need to move to a place to where women can feel confident to be whatever she chooses. It is good that this question is getting the airtime that it desperately needs. I will admit and so do the authors of these books that there is no easy answer to this question. In the mean time I am going to try some of the tips in this book and maybe I can move from a place of insecurity to a place of confidence.

three-half-stars
Hillary

About Hillary

I am a book lover who loves to read and write. I only leave my apartment for food and MOAR books. I love to meet new people online so don't be afraid to say hi!

Tolstoy and the Purple Chair

Posted March 26, 2012 by Hillary in Book Reviews / 2 Comments

A book review of Tolstoy and the purple chair

After her sister died of cancer the author decides to read a book a day for a year. She wrote reviews on her blog Read All Day for every book that she read. Prior to this she was trying to cram as much into her day as possible to escape her grief. Then one day she realized that to come to terms wit her grief she needed to slow down to heal.
Sankovitch and her sister shared a love of books. So it made sense that the author selected books as a way to figure out how to come to terms with her grief. And she did come to terms with it. I felt this was a moving and compelling read about that process.
I like many other people I am sure wondered how she would read a book a day and keep up with the fluctuations of daily life. She writes about this. About how it took her a few days to get in the rhythm of things. The most important thing she does is to make reading a priority. Many of us feel that we make reading a priority but do we really? In her book she explains how she always has a book with her and anytime she finds herself in a position to read she does. Waiting in line, waiting for an event or whatever she makes time for reading
In her book she speaks of the healing power of books. How reading such books taught her to live again. This is beautifully written and and can help other people attempting to learn to live with grief.

five-stars
Hillary

About Hillary

I am a book lover who loves to read and write. I only leave my apartment for food and MOAR books. I love to meet new people online so don't be afraid to say hi!

Review:The Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks

Posted January 18, 2012 by Hillary in Book Reviews / 0 Comments

Review:The Immortal Life Of Henrietta LacksThe Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
Published by Broadway Paperbacks on 2011
Genres: Biography & Autobiography, Cancer, Cultural Heritage, Diseases, Health & Fitness, History, Medical, Research, Science
Pages: 381
Goodreads
five-stars

Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. She was a poor Southern tobacco farmer who worked the same land as her slave ancestors, yet her cells—taken without her knowledge—became one of the most important tools in medicine. The first “immortal” human cells grown in culture, they are still alive today, though she has been dead for more than sixty years. If you could pile all HeLa cells ever grown onto a scale, they’d weigh more than 50 million metric tons—as much as a hundred Empire State Buildings. HeLa cells were vital for developing the polio vaccine; uncovered secrets of cancer, viruses, and the atom bomb’s effects; helped lead to important advances like in vitro fertilization, cloning, and gene mapping; and have been bought and sold by the billions. Yet Henrietta Lacks remains virtually unknown, buried in an unmarked grave. Now Rebecca Skloot takes us on an extraordinary journey, from the “colored” ward of Johns Hopkins Hospital in the 1950s to stark white laboratories with freezers full of HeLa cells; from Henrietta’s small, dying hometown of Clover, Virginia—a land of wooden slave quarters, faith healings, and voodoo—to East Baltimore today, where her children and grandchildren live and struggle with the legacy of her cells. Henrietta’s family did not learn of her “immortality” until more than twenty years after her death, when scientists investigating HeLa began using her husband and children in research without informed consent. And though the cells had launched a multimillion-dollar industry that sells human biological materials, her family never saw any of the profits. As Rebecca Skloot so brilliantly shows, the story of the Lacks family—past and present—is inextricably connected to the dark history of experimentation on African Americans, the birth of bioethics, and the legal battles over whether we control the stuff we are made of. Over the decade it took to uncover this story, Rebecca became enmeshed in the lives of the Lacks family—especially Henrietta’s daughter Deborah, who was devastated to learn about her mother’s cells. She was consumed with questions: Had scientists cloned her mother? Did it hurt her when researchers infected her cells with viruses and shot them into space? What happened to her sister, Elsie, who died in a mental institution at the age of fifteen? And if her mother was so important to medicine, why couldn’t her children afford health insurance?             Intimate in feeling, astonishing in scope, and impossible to put down, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks captures the beauty and drama of scientific discovery, as well as its human consequences.

A book Review of the immortal life of Henrietta Lacks
Henrietta Lacks is the woman behind the famous hela cells. The hela cell line has helped with everything from the polio vaccine to research for cancer. Yet her family did not get answers that they wanted about their mother.
This books uncovers what it was like to be poor and black in the 50’s.  Lacks had cervical cancer. Her cancer spread like wildfire and she died shortly after. Without her or her family knowing the DR. took a sample of her cancer cells and they became the first immortal cell line. Her family had questions but no one would talk to them or answer them until the author came along. In the decade that she spent researching this book, she became friends with Lacks daughter Deborah. Together they embarked to find out all they could on Lacks.
I felt that this book was well written. What could have descended into technical jargon instead remains assessable for the lay person and it superb storytelling. This book is a fascinating look into who Henrietta Lacks was. The author does not hold anything back. She tells the good with the bad. So we get a balanced picture of the Lacks family.
I would recommend this to anyone who likes science. Even if you do not like science the writing itself is so well written it makes this book worth reading.

five-stars
Hillary

About Hillary

I am a book lover who loves to read and write. I only leave my apartment for food and MOAR books. I love to meet new people online so don't be afraid to say hi!

Review: The Convert

Posted May 28, 2011 by Hillary in ARC, Book Reviews / 0 Comments

I received this book for free from publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

The Convert by Deborah Baker
Published by Graywolf Press on May 10th 2011
Genres: Biography & Autobiography, Islamic Studies, Religious, Social Science
Pages: 224
Source: publisher
Goodreads
four-stars

*A 2011 National Book Award Finalist* A spellbinding story of renunciation, conversion, and radicalism from Pulitzer Prize-finalist biographer Deborah Baker What drives a young woman raised in a postwar New York City suburb to convert to Islam, abandon her country and Jewish faith, and embrace a life of exile in Pakistan? The Convert tells the story of how Margaret Marcus of Larchmont became Maryam Jameelah of Lahore, one of the most trenchant and celebrated voices of Islam’s argument with the West. A cache of Maryam’s letters to her parents in the archives of the New York Public Library sends the acclaimed biographer Deborah Baker on her own odyssey into the labyrinthine heart of twentieth-century Islam. Casting a shadow over these letters is the mysterious figure of Mawlana Abul Ala Mawdudi, both Maryam’s adoptive father and the man who laid the intellectual foundations for militant Islam. As she assembles the pieces of a singularly perplexing life, Baker finds herself captive to questions raised by Maryam’s journey. Is her story just another bleak chapter in a so-called clash of civilizations? Or does it signify something else entirely? And then there’s this: Is the life depicted in Maryam’s letters home and in her books an honest reflection of the one she lived? Like many compelling and true tales, The Convert is stranger than fiction. It is a gripping account of a life lived on the radical edge and a profound meditation on the cultural conflicts that frustrate mutual understanding.

This ithe converts a tale of Margret Marcus a Jewish girl growing up in the shadows of War World Two. While she hears about the horrors going on in Europe, her fascination  is with the Arabs. She gets upset at the formation of Israel and decides to convert to Islam. She has also spent time in mental wards.

Mawlana Abul Ala Mawdudi a man known for his staunch support of political Islam became her guardian when so moved to Pakistan. While in Pakistan Margret Marcus who became Maryam jamaleh upon her conversion to Islam, wrote a number of book supporting militant Islam and condemning the West. She was very influential in some circles in Lahore.

However it was not all smiles and writing in Pakistan. Before she had left the United States she had spent time in a mental hospital with Schizophrenia. She states in her letter that her decision to come to Islam is one of the sanest she has made in her life but one wonders. Then she ends up in a notorious madhouse in Lahore.

One gets the sense of reading this of how much of her thinking is muddled by her mental state and how much she really believes. Then again she was probably freer in Pakistan than she would have been in the US. In Pakistan she was able to marry and have kids and have her sister wife take care of her kids leaving her to write and so what ever else she wanted. while if she had stayed in the US she would probably ended up a ward of the state in a hospital somewhere.

Ever since 9/11 it has been a zero sum game for Islam and the West. If one wins the other loses. It was fascinating to trace back this ideology on the Muslim side to a specific political group and how they in a way took Maryam in and used her to showcase just how degraded the West really was.

Here was a perfect example of how when one followed the west your parents could kick you out, get rid of you or drop you off at the local state hospital while you traveled the world. While in Islam once you had a child you are responsible for it forever. That was the thinking anyway. It seemed it was to their own best advantage to use her to their political ends.

I found this book fascinating. The whole thing seemed unreal. Even the author admits all this was hard to imagine until she went to Lahore. First when she read the letters in New York public Libary it seemed that Maryam had finally found a place she could call home. That it was not rife with the strife that afflicted her with her parents in the US. However when the author went to Lahore she found something unsettling. From her old foster family saying that what she wrote home to her parents is not exactly what transpired in Pakistan. That she was guilty of a multitude of sins. When the author finally reached her for an interview she found a woman who acted complete different than what her letters portrayed. I felt that the author was being a little harsh in her judgment of Maryam. But who am I to say? I wasn’t there. Where the author gets to this point in the book I felt that it starts to fall apart. It as if the author let her emptions color what she wrote and we only get a nuanced version of the “real” Maryam. With sayings such as “I could not wait to leave the room” we are getting the author’s emotions instead of what the story was supposed to be focused on.

The rest of the book is tightly written and a fascinating look at Maryam life as a political Islamist. Pick this book up if you want to know why someone would trade a middle class existence to a Life under a veil in poverty struck Pakistan.

four-stars
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Hillary

About Hillary

I am a book lover who loves to read and write. I only leave my apartment for food and MOAR books. I love to meet new people online so don't be afraid to say hi!