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

3.76  ·  Rating Details ·  124 Ratings  ·  24 Reviews
In 2004 genetic testing revealed that Masha Gessen had a mutation that predisposed her to ovarian and breast cancer. The discovery initiated Gessen into a club of sorts: the small (but exponentially expanding) group of people in possession of a new and different way of knowing themselves through what is inscribed in the strands of their DNA. As she wrestled with a wrench
Paperback, 336 pages
Published December 28th 2009 by Mariner Books (first published April 1st 2008)
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Sep 22, 2011 Mathew rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Aug 28, 2008 Alison rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
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
Sarah Sammis
Mar 20, 2008 Sarah Sammis rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: released, review-copy
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
Nov 27, 2015 Kirk rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: popular-science
A journalist with a family history of breast and ovarian cancer must first decide whether to get testing, and then, discovering she is positive, decide what action to take. Along the way she covers a lot of ground about what we can learn from our genes, the value of screening, whether patients are sophisticated enough to handle this information and the distress and anxiety of uncertainty.

Written ten years ago, genetic testing was much less mainstream and discussed as a topic (this was prior to '
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
Judy Gehman
Mar 15, 2011 Judy Gehman rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 11, 2008 Danielle rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 07, 2011 L rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Apr 28, 2009 Suzanne rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: brca
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.
Sep 17, 2008 Cindy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Sep 08, 2009 Josie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Feb 16, 2011 Matt rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
'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.
Aug 31, 2008 Nancy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
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.
Sep 27, 2008 Laurie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 27, 2009 K Surkan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Well, I found the first chapter interesting.
Gina Elle
Very thorough research but I expected more thoughts on her dilemmas and worries.
Mar 28, 2009 Jen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A really interesting look at genetic disorders from a very personal viewpoint.
Nicole Martin
Jun 20, 2012 Nicole Martin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was so good, it hurt my head. I love a book that challenges me. This did it.
Dec 23, 2008 Lachelle rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Aug 02, 2013 Pilar rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Choppy, but interesting.
Sep 14, 2008 Devon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Hannah rated it really liked it
Nov 14, 2008
Lisa rated it really liked it
Feb 04, 2011
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May 18, 2010
Kendra Anspaugh
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Masha Gessen (born 1967) is a Russian journalist, translator, and nonfiction 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 worked as a journalist. She has since returned to the United States.

She writes in both Russian and English, and has contributed to The New Republic, New Statesman, Granta an
More about Masha Gessen...

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