Friday, April 29, 2016

Black Man in a White Coat (2015)

by Damon Tweedy

"On one level the book is a straightforward memoir; on another it’s a thoughtful, painfully honest, multi-angled, constant self-interrogation about himself and about the health implications of being black in a country where blacks are more likely than other groups to suffer from, for instance, heart disease, diabetes, stroke, kidney failure and cancer. “Being black can be bad for your health,” he says."

DJE: This is a delightful book that has memorable anecdotes and teaching points.  If you are not convinced, see Sarah Lyell's review in the NY Times.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

The Heart

Just before dawn on a Sunday morning, three teenage boys go surfing. Returning home, exhausted, the driver lets the car drift off the road into a tree. Two of the boys are wearing seat belts; one is sent through the windshield. He is declared brain-dead shortly after arriving at the hospital. His heart is still beating.

The Heart takes place over the twenty-four hours surrounding a fatal accident and a resulting heart transplant as life is taken from a young man and given to a woman close to death. In gorgeous, ruminative prose it examines the deepest feelings of everyone involved--grieving parents, hardworking doctors and nurses--as they navigate decisions of life and death. As stylistically audacious as it is emotionally explosive, Maylis de Kerangal's The Heart has mesmerized readers in France, where it has been hailed as the breakthrough work of a new literary star.

Monday, December 21, 2015

The Death of Cancer (2015)


by Vincent DeVita

This is a very readable and informative book by a medical scientist who has been in the field for the past 50 years.  It is blends facts and anecdotes in an entertaining and educational manner.  It will appeal to patients, their families. educators and practitioners.

In her NY Times review, Abby Zuger wrote:
Now 80, a professor at Yale and one of the nation’s premier oncologists, Dr. DeVita has produced, with the help of his daughter, an utterly absorbing memoir, fierce and frank. Ears will burn, memories will doubtless differ on a few counts, and even his take on the particulars of cancer treatment may provoke debate. But the average reader will come away from the book with a superb basic education in all things oncological, from events on the cellular level to those in the rooms where research agendas are settled and checks are written.

The Death of Cancer is a great companion piece to Mukherjee’s “The Emperor of All Maladies."

Thursday, December 17, 2015

A Little Life

By Hanya Yanagihara (Doubleday). Love it or not, this was one of 2015’s big books, a dense and hefty drama following a close-knit group of male friends through triumph and adversity. Mostly adversity: The book’s universe revolves around Jude, a mysterious wounded bird who has been hurt so deeply that it takes Ms. Yanagihara 720 pages to explain him. Overwrought but indelible.

(This was a hard book to read.  However, it gives much insight into what Anna Luis Kirkengen calls, "The Lived Experience of Violation.")

Monday, November 16, 2015

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

by Sherman Alexie
Exploring Indian identity, both self and tribal, Alexie's first young adult novel is a semi-autobiographical chronicle of Arnold Spirit, aka Junior, a Spokane Indian from Wellpinit, WA. The bright 14-year-old was born with hydrocephalus, is regularly the target of bullies, and loves to draw. He says, "I think the world is a series of broken dams and floods, and my cartoons are tiny little lifeboats." He expects disaster when he transfers from the reservation school to the rich, white school in Reardan, but soon finds himself making friends with both geeky and popular students and starting on the basketball team. Meeting his old classmates on the court, Junior grapples with questions about what constitutes one's community, identity, and tribe. The daily struggles of reservation life and the tragic deaths of the protagonist's grandmother, dog, and older sister would be all but unbearable without the humor and resilience of spirit with which Junior faces the world. The many characters, on and off the rez, with whom he has dealings are portrayed with compassion and verve, particularly the adults in his extended family. Forney's simple pencil cartoons fit perfectly within the story and reflect the burgeoning artist within Junior. The teen's determination to both improve himself and overcome poverty, despite the handicaps of birth, circumstances, and race, delivers a positive message in a low-key manner.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Stuff

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Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things  (2010)
by Randy O. Frost, Gail Stekeete
What possesses someone to save every scrap of paper thats ever come into his home? What compulsions drive a woman like Irene, whose hoarding cost her her marriage? Or Ralph, whose imagined uses for castoff items like leaky old buckets almost lost him his house?

Randy Frost and Gail Steketee were the first to study hoarding when they began their work a decade ago; they expected to find a few sufferers but ended up treating hundreds of patients and fielding thousands of calls from the families of others. Now they explore the compulsion through a series of compelling case studies in the vein of Oliver Sacks.

With vivid portraits that show us the traits by which you can identify a hoarder - piles on sofas and beds that make the furniture useless, houses that can be navigated only by following small paths called goat trails, vast piles of paper that the hoarders churn but never discard, even collections of animals and garbage - Frost and Steketee illuminate the pull that possessions exert on all of us.

Whether we're savers, collectors, or compulsive cleaners, very few of us are in fact free of the impulses that drive hoarders to the extremes in which they live. For all of us with complicated relationships to our things, Stuff answers the question of what happens when our stuff starts to own us.

See: Coming Clean by Kim Miller.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Hoarding


From Amazon: Kim Miller is an immaculately put-together woman with a great career, a loving boyfriend, and a tidy apartment on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. You would never guess that Kim grew up behind the closed doors of her family’s idyllic Long Island house, navigating between teetering stacks of aging newspapers, broken computers, and boxes upon boxes of unused junk festering in every room—the product of her father’s painful and unending struggle with hoarding.

In this moving coming-of-age story, Kim brings to life her rat-infested home, her childhood consumed by concealing her father’s shameful secret from friends, and the emotional burden that ultimately led to an attempt to take her own life. And in beautiful prose, Miller sheds light on her complicated yet loving relationship with her parents that has thrived in spite of the odds.

Coming Clean is a story about recognizing where we come from and the relationships that define us—and about finding peace in the homes we make for ourselves.

Also see Stuff by Randy Frost and Gail Steketee