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Blood Matters: From BRCA1 to Designer Babies, How the World and I Found Ourselves in the Future of the Gene

3.75 of 5 stars 3.75  ·  rating details  ·  95 ratings  ·  22 reviews
Masha Gessen discovered throughgenetic testing that she had the dreaded BRCA1 genetic mutation--the same mutation made famous recently by Angelina Jolie, which predisposes women to ovarian and breast cancer. As Gessen wrestled with a wrenching personal decision—what to do with such knowledge—she explored the landscape of a brave new world, speaking with others like her and ...more
Paperback, 336 pages
Published November 11th 2009 by Mariner Books (first published April 1st 2008)
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Mathew
From the synopsis you may think this is a book about how the author deals with being diagnosed with breast cancer, and not much more. However there is so much more to it. Clearly well researched this is an easily accessible book on genetics and it's influence on human disease. A must read for anyone with an interest in genetics.
Alison
intersting tangents on genetics, from a russian lesbian whod had breast cancer and also is a really into it investigative reasearcher so she takes us into a lot of russian and jewish genetic places /research/philosophical dilemas/etc. not exactly a novel, but for me it was cool.
Lisa
Masha Gessen, a journalist in her late thirties, discovers through genetic testing that she carries a gene that makes her likely to develop breast and/or ovarian cancer. To help her decide whether and how to act on this knowledge, Gessen researches the history of genetic disease and genetic testing, and visits many scientists, past and present patients, and their families.

The book is precisely written and gives a thorough, rigorously thoughtful take on heredity and what genetic testing means fo
...more
Sarah Sammis
Blood Matters is a thin volume packed with information on recent advances in the science of genetics told in a very personal manner. Masha Gessen was inspired to write Blood Matters after learning she had a mutation that increases her risk of breast and ovarian cancers.

In the first chapter when Gessen is recounting her mother's death and her own fears about breast cancer I was reluctant to keep reading. I was afraid the book would be nothing more than a gnashing of teeth and self pity. Fortunate
...more
Aurelien
This is more than a simple testimony from a patient suffering from a cancer and, her odyssey to better grasp her condition through the lense of medical science. Biology and history are here intertwined with ethics so as to question, bluntly and without passion the impact of our understanding of genetics so far.

Without being sordid nor miserabilist she tells her doubt and fears (should she accept an oophorectomy? etc.) but, above all, expands her experience to write about eugenics (especially, st
...more
Gina Elle
Very thorough research but I expected more thoughts on her dilemmas and worries.
Judy Gehman
I found this book fascinating and well written. Gessen is a journalist who is diagnosed as having an abnormality with her BRCA gene which predisposes her to an 85% chance of breast cancer and a 40% chance of ovarian cancer. Awful odds. On the way to making her decision about whether to have her breasts and/or ovaries removed She does some very interesting research into genetic diseases, and the amazing frontiers of genetic work. In addition to BRCA, she discusses Huntington's chorea, "bubble" ba ...more
Danielle
The author examines ever advancing world of genetics. She focuses on her own struggle to decide whether to have her breasts and ovaries removed after she tests positive for a gene that indicates she is likely to develop either breast or ovarian cancer. She also delves into many other areas related to genetic testing and medicine including why genes for some diseases tend to be found more frequently in some groups such as the Amish or Ashkenazi Jews. I found it to be a very interesting book that ...more
Suzanne
3 stars for some unfocused writing, but I liked the author's bitchy take on the BRCA genetic test decision-making process and wide range competence among doctors, as well as the subculture of cancer patients and people who test positive for the BRCA mutation.

Essentially there are only 2 books written by women who've tested positive for BRCA gene mutation: Blood Matters and Pretty is What Changes. Both are required reading, as they are completely different takes on the subject matter.
L
I really enjoyed this book because the author tells an compelling story about her own journey with genetic testing but there is a lot of science and interviews to back up her opinions. This was great. It is easy to read because it feels like you're working with a friendc to work through some personal issues, but a lot of the scientific evidenceis right there and researched for you. You can get your science, educational and personal journey fix all in one book.
Nancy
An interesting book. The author learns she has a genetic predisposition to breast cancer and ovarian cancer. She reports on the difficulty she has in making a decision whether on not to have her breasts and ovaries removed. She also includes chapters on families with a wide variety of genetic diseases and information on the current science of preventing and dealing with these diseases.
Josie
This book is sort of dumb about genetics (poor understanding of evolution being the main problem) even while it is appropriately skeptical about connections between genes and behavior and put off by the personalities of scientists. Gessen is compelling though; I guess I wanted it to be more memoir and less research. She is quite mean but mostly keeps the bite under wraps.
Cindy
In the first and last chapters alone, this author tells a beautiful story about living in the midst of the genetic information age. She also offers a huge amount of research from a non-academic perspective. I was amazed to learn about genetic testing in Isreal, and came away with the hope that people can and will shape the future of science, not the converse.
Matt
'Blood Matters' is really two books. One is about the author and her coming to terms with her genetic makeup. The other is about genetics. The first book is incredibly interesting, but sadly it ends about two-thirds of the way through, leaving the second book with no guiding narrative. It's still a compelling read and worth checking out.
Cindy Raquepau
Author discovers she has inherited a defective gene common in her Jewish ancestors. While she decides whether to have a complete hysterectomy and masectomy to prevent cancer, she discusses the frontier of genetic medicine and the ethical questions that surround the diseases.
Laurie
At times this book could be tedious. But I did like that the author not only focused on her own breast cancer gene mutation, but also on other gene mutations, as well, and how they are being treated. This is not a book that you can cuddle up with in bed.
K Surkan
Very engaging probe into the implications of DNA testing for genetically inherited disorders, including Huntington's Disease, BRCA, PKD, and others. I wish Gessen had more to say about PGD and the reproductive politics surrounding these issues, though.
Devon
I was so excited that this book was as accessible as it was. The subject matter could lend itself to a very dense scientific text but Masha Gessen managed to make it both readable and enjoyable.
Lachelle
From The New York Times 100 Notable Books of 2008 List. Super interesting and well written if you can get past the first few pages.
Nicole Martin
This book was so good, it hurt my head. I love a book that challenges me. This did it.
Jen
A really interesting look at genetic disorders from a very personal viewpoint.
Pilar
Choppy, but interesting.
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Masha Gessen (born 1967) is a Russian journalist and author.
Born into an Ashkenazi Jewish family in Russia, in 1981 she moved with her family to the United States, returning in 1991 to Moscow where she lives now.[1] Her brother is Keith Gessen.
She writes in both Russian and English, and has contributed to The New Republic, New Statesman, Granta and Slate. Gessen is the Russian correspondent for US
...more
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