I am not sure exactly what I was expecting when I started reading Three Cups of Tea, but it was not exactly what I got, not necessarily a bad thing. II am not sure exactly what I was expecting when I started reading Three Cups of Tea, but it was not exactly what I got, not necessarily a bad thing. I will say, I have always thought of Pakistan as being the place where bin Laden lived and hating Americans, chanting after 9/11. Instead, they are a very ritualistic and deeply caring society as complex rich in culture as anyone. The fact that Mortenson successfully dealt and spoke to members of the Taliban and devote jihadist leaning mullahs makes truly believe that our television news culture overplays the evil-doer, we hate America thing. Maybe as a theory they hate the way Americans have treated them, Mortenson saw innocent Afghanis get killed by American drone strikes, but that doesn't mean they cannot see American citizens as individuals. If nothing else I learned Mortenson is probably the closest to ending the war on terror. Let's end terror, not by striking terror in the heart of the "enemy" (who should be the government not the innocent citizens just like I don't want to be judge by my government's decisions), but instead let's end it by educating everyone (both sides). Let's give Afghanistan and Pakistan education and the strength and pride to fix their own governments and let's give Americans an education on what Islam really and learn how to these people live so neither of us is consumed by blind hate. That's what I think anyway....more
What a beautiful and captivating story. I found myself amazed, disgusted, angered, and laughing at everything in this memoir. So well-written and so mWhat a beautiful and captivating story. I found myself amazed, disgusted, angered, and laughing at everything in this memoir. So well-written and so matter-of-fact for such a disturbing and outrageous story.
Jeannette Walls' memoir begins with a story from when she was around three and cooking hotdogs for herself, a common occurrence, when her dress caught on fire and she was badly burned and taken to the hospital where her parents thought she didn't belong there, though the girl had skin grafts. The stories of Jeannette Walls life and those of her brother and sisters have similar moments of neglect and how the children survived and sometimes thrived despite their parents and sometimes because of them. It is amazing how parents who love their kids so much can abuse them and set them up for failure.
This story is amazing and you should read it to learn survival, self-sufficiency, intelligence, and pluck can conquer all, even too much love and not enough parenting. It makes all the issues and grievances I ever had against my parents seem petty....more
I feel that I have been so down on novels lately and that does make me feel a bit bad, like I am being a total miser. Maybe my current lack of luck inI feel that I have been so down on novels lately and that does make me feel a bit bad, like I am being a total miser. Maybe my current lack of luck in life (woah alliteration!) was seeping into my love of literature? Literature does not exist in vacuum, we all bring our past experiences and learning to books, so maybe I was bringing grumpiness and depression? Then I read this book, by a scientist no less, and I wanted to fall to my knees and thank someone for writing this. Literature is my religion and this book functioned as a sacred text that redeemed some of the bad literature I had been reading lately, with the exception of Amy Waldman's The Submission of course.
What book causes such a stir? Rebecca Skloot's The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. I am not sure where to start with such a great piece of writing. I guess I'll start with the premise. Let's start at the very beginning; that's a very good place to start. In the 50's, when Jim Crow laws were still alive and well a Black woman by the name of Henrietta Lacks told some of her family that she thought she had something wrong inside of her womb. Time goes on and she delivers a baby, her fifth, and its gets worse and she's sure something is wrong with her. She goes to the John Hopkins clinic where they tell her she has cancer. Being the 50's before some of the great cancer breakthroughs, breakthroughs she will be responsible for, they pack radioactive material inside of her as a form of radiation. She doesn't get better or recover. The cancer spreads everywhere at a pace that is both terrifying to think about and almost impossible.
She of course died leaving her 5 young children and her husband without a mother and wife. They ask her husband if they can take a sample and after first refusing he finally relents. Then starts the fame and immortality of Henrietta Lacks. Her cells are taken to a Johns Hopkins lab and become the first cells and one of a few today that just continually multiple; they are unstoppable. The scientist begins sending her cells to other labs, something that had never been done before due to fragility but was possible with such resistant cells. Companies were established that sold these cells (HeLa). Lacks' cells became a commodity in a multi-million dollar business. Her cells contributed to cures for polio, cloning, cancer treatments, and thousands of other ways we can only begin to imagine.
Millions, if not billions of dollars were made on the HeLa cells. Flash forward to her family, many of whom received little education. Her youngest son spent time incarcerated and he says he never felt right without a mother. A family that cannot afford doctor visits because they have no health insurance. Lacks' own children poor when their mother had sacrificed her life for science advancement. Companies were making million of Henrietta Lacks and her children have never seen a dime. In fact, their mother faded into memory and due to patient confidentiality laws, no one should have ever known who the cells belonged to, but a doctor released information they shouldn't. The rest of the book composes of how the Lacks' family never even knew their mother's cells had changed history until it became a source of media attention and how they dealt with it and how they didn't. How little recognition they or their mother had received and a complex look at confidentiality laws and who owns the right to tissue and other complex ethical questions that make the reader uncomfortable.
Should we sacrifice scientific breakthrough and progress for the individual rights? Where is the line? Do we get a say once we die? Should the hospital and the companies pay Henrietta Lacks' family an honorarium, should someone apologize, should there be a memorial to this woman? If the family did receive a settlement or an apology or a memorial is that enough?
The question I am most stymied by has to do with the book's author, Rebecca Skloot. I am encouraged that she investigated this topic and brought light to some uncomfortable but necessary questions. Also, the fact that she got close to the family and Lacks' daughter Deborah, now deceased, shows she has heart. But by writing about this family an going into such detail about their lives ups and downs is she doing the same thing to Henrietta Lacks and her family that Johns Hopkins did when they took her cells and gave them away to individuals who began selling them and patenting them? Is it like reliving a rape? If a woman is raped and you make her recount what happened in a court room or have her sit in the court and watch the video of it happen, isn't that rereaping the victim? Making them relive something awful? How is it helping the family? I will say while Skloot did create a foundation, the Henrietta Lacks Foundation, it did not contribute all of the money to the family. The Lacks' family was upset so many people made a profit from their mother but isn't Skloot doing the same? She did not purchase Deborah's headstone when she died, a woman she had become close with. Is that wrong? It definitely makes me uneasy and makes me think of a person's image/body. Who owns our own body/image because it clearly seems that we don't own our own bodies.
After all is said and done, I did enjoy the book and I wish Johns Hopkins would offer that family free treatment for the rest of their lives as an apology and that some sort of memorial was built for this woman. Doesn't she deserve that after all she and her family went through and continues to go through? Just some food for thought......more
I enjoyed this book if nothing else than because I am not sure who couldn't use more happiness in their lives. It's interesting and she points out somI enjoyed this book if nothing else than because I am not sure who couldn't use more happiness in their lives. It's interesting and she points out some seemingly commonsensical suggestions, but ones that I think most people would overlook....more
A thought provoking examination of what it means to eat meat, from a global, ethical, moral, and heath perspective. I was expecting an angry diatribeA thought provoking examination of what it means to eat meat, from a global, ethical, moral, and heath perspective. I was expecting an angry diatribe against the meat industry and a violent call for vegetarianism or veganism. Instead, I found a quiet and powerful call to think carefully about our choices. Safran Foer acknowledges that eating meat does not make you a bad human, but make wise choices.
Why the wise choices?
Well, Foer examines the ethics of the animal agricultural system that results in 99% of the meat eaten by Americans. He graphically explains how cruel and inhumanely these animals are treated. It is pretty stomach-turning, I acknowledge this. Even while commenting and documenting this mass cruelty (animals tortured, kept in tiny cages without room to turn around, and this is the less gruesome aspects) he provides an alternative, which I appreciate. While he made the decision after all of this research to go vegetarian, he acknowledges there are a FEW, and I stress a few, examples of positive and more humane farms (the factory-farms that make up 99% of the industry shouldn't be called farms). He goes into depth about their humane procedures and offers them as an alternative and a slim, slim hope for the future.
Of course at some point we all know that the food manufacturing industry is upsetting. I think we obfuscate and pretend ignorance but deep down we know it's disgusting and would churn our stomachs, make us lose our appetites. But what really struck home is the health issues of these "farms." Pigs and birds can share and transmits viruses to humans. That's scary, especially because the bad conditions pigs especially live in requires them to consistently be on antibiotics to cure and prevent sickness. Pigs are becoming partially responsible for antibiotic resistant bugs. The deadly 1918 Spanish flu featured in Downton Abbey can be partially be blamed on pigs, same with the swine flu.
Also, the enormous amounts of waste produced by these animals is responsible for more pollution than the entire travel/vehicle industries combined. And... it's not regulated. People regularly dump it into the waters you drink. Oh, and there is no regulation saying the chicken you pick up at the supermarket can't have waste or other bodily fluids on it. It is a huge health and environmental issue, forget the ethical for a second. It's making us sick!
I appreciate that this book didn't make me guilty for not being a vegetarian but asked me to make more conscientious and smart decisions and if I make a bad decision at least make it an informed bad decision....more