An excellent biography of a genuine miracle worker.

THE FACEMAKER

A VISIONARY SURGEON'S BATTLE TO MEND THE DISFIGURED SOLDIERS OF WORLD WAR I

The author of The Butchering Art returns with “a new perspective on the terrible consequences of trench warfare, and the private battles that many men fought long after they put down their rifles.”

“Disfigured soldiers,” writes Fitzharris, “often suffered self-imposed isolation from society following their return from war.” While this has been true throughout history, the vast increase in military technology during World War I produced an avalanche of torn flesh and mutilated body parts that overwhelmed surgeons. Among more than 20 million injured, nearly 300,000 soldiers suffered facial trauma. In this often graphic yet inspiring, engaging book, the author focuses on Harold Gillies (1882-1960), a successful British ear, nose, and throat surgeon whose pioneering work in repairing faces places him among the war’s few true heroes. Sent to France early in the war, he observed freelance dental surgeons (the Royal Army Medical Corps had none) experimenting with facial reconstruction. He quickly established that the first principle of battlefield surgery—to close gaping wounds—was a disaster for jaw and facial injuries. Unless the damaged underlying structures were repaired first, the procedures guaranteed a grotesque end result. Returning to the Queen’s Hospital in London, Gillies persuaded the chief surgeon to establish a facial injury ward, which eventually grew to more than 1,000 beds and employed dozens of surgeon, dentists, artists, and sculptors who pioneered a new specialty: plastic surgery. The author’s case reports of individual soldiers are not for the faint of heart, but she delivers a consistently vivid account of the ingenious techniques involving skin flaps, grafting, reconstruction, and prostheses, most of which Gillies and colleagues invented. Many victims required dozens of painful procedures, and not all succeeded, but his accomplishments, along with his compassion, made him an object of worship from patients. A “genuine visionary in his field,” he received a good deal of favorable publicity in the media but only modest official recognition, including a knighthood in 1930, and he continued to practice until his death.

An excellent biography of a genuine miracle worker.

Pub Date: June 7, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-374-28230-1

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: April 6, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2022

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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

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WHY WE'RE POLARIZED

A sharp explanation of how American politics has become so discordant.

Journalist Klein, co-founder of Vox, formerly of the Washington Post, MSNBC, and Bloomberg, reminds readers that political commentators in the 1950s and ’60s denounced Republicans and Democrats as “tweedledum and tweedledee.” With liberals and conservatives in both parties, they complained, voters lacked a true choice. The author suspects that race played a role, and he capably shows us why and how. For a century after the Civil War, former Confederate states, obsessed with keeping blacks powerless, elected a congressional bloc that “kept the Democratic party less liberal than it otherwise would’ve been, the Republican Party congressionally weaker than it otherwise would’ve been, and stopped the parties from sorting themselves around the deepest political cleavage of the age.” Following the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, many white Southern Democrats became Republicans, and the parties turned consistently liberal and conservative. Given a “true choice,” Klein maintains, voters discarded ideology in favor of “identity politics.” Americans, like all humans, cherish their “tribe” and distrust outsiders. Identity was once a preoccupation of minorities, but it has recently attracted white activists and poisoned the national discourse. The author deplores the decline of mass media (network TV, daily newspapers), which could not offend a large audience, and the rise of niche media and internet sites, which tell a small audience only what they want to hear. American observers often joke about European nations that have many parties who vote in lock step. In fact, such parties cooperate to pass legislation. America is the sole system with only two parties, both of which are convinced that the other is not only incompetent (a traditional accusation), but a danger to the nation. So far, calls for drastic action to prevent the apocalypse are confined to social media, fringe activists, and the rhetoric of Trump supporters. Fortunately—according to Klein—Trump is lazy, but future presidents may be more savvy. The author does not conclude this deeply insightful, if dispiriting, analysis by proposing a solution.

A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4767-0032-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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