04 February 2015

Upcoming Books for SEASONS 2015

Margaret Gey and Minnie in the Geys laboratory.
 "Margaret's surgical training was the only reason
the Gey lab was able to grow cells at all."
SEASONS met in January to finish our discussion of  Rebecca Skloot's The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.
"...this book isn't just about science; it's about gender, race, and life itself."
"We must not see any person as an abstraction."    "Black scientists and technicians, many of them women, used cells from a black woman to help saves the lives of millions of Americans, most of them white. And they did so on the same campus--and at the very same time--that state officials were conducting the infamous Tuskegee syphilis studies."
"...like it or not, we live in  a market-driven society, and science is part of that market."
The subject is endlessly fascinating as it was when I first read about HeLa some decades ago while I was still a medical librarian. I found this book to be a very uneven read. It is far more memoir of the author's investigation than a history. It is all too easy to identify a limited world view, errors of fact, and faulty analysis.  The tone is journalistic, lapsing at time into sensationalism. Yet with all these failings, it was a compelling read. I thought Bobbie's comment that we should perhaps "read this book empathetically rather than critically" was cogent. Here is a link that presents a very good summary. It is also by Rebecca Skloot

At our January meeting, SEASONS selected three books to read next:
  1. First up is Barbara Kingsolver's 1988 debut novel The Bean Trees. 
  2. Next we will dive into Nothing Daunted: the unexpected education of two society girls in the West by Dorothy Wickenden. I'm looking forward to this non-fiction account of two women teachers in Colorado in 1916.
  3. The final selection for the first half of the year is Dava Sobel's Galileo's Daughter: a historical memoir of science, faith, and love. 17th Century, science, religion, and "a woman of exquisite mind"--oh, yes! This has been on my list for a long time and I'm glad to have the push to get it read.
Honorable mention:

 Abigail Adams by Woody Holton, winner of the Bancroft Prize.
Some years ago I read My Dearest Friend: the Letters Abigail and John Adams and found it most interesting.
“Learning is not attained by chance, it must be sought for with ardor and attended to with diligence.”  
“We have too many high sounding words and too few actions that correspond with them.”  

No comments: