BOOK REVIEW: The Alchemy of Us: How Humans and Matter Transformed One Another by Ainissa Ramirez.

This post is going to take a look at The Alchemy of Us written by Ainissa Ramirez. I received an eARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This book was released in April 2020, and I highly encourage you to get a copy and learn about everyday items we often take for granted in a new way!

It was really nice reading a nonfiction book for a change. I normally like to alternate between reading fiction and nonfiction to keep a decent balance between the two, but a majority of the eARCs I receive are fiction so sometimes I get off balance.

The Alchemy of Us discusses the importance of eight different inventions and how they changed the way humans interact with the world. Ramirez looks at clocks, steel rails, copper communication cables, photographic film, light bulbs, hard disks, scientific labware, and silicon chips. Ramirez’s goal was not only to be informative, but to write in an entertaining way so that the material in the book is accessible to the readers, and doesn’t scare them away like science classes often do.

The author did an excellent job of finding stories behind inventions that many might not have heard before. When I was in school I learned about how clocks helped with the Industrial Revolution, but I had never heard of the woman who sold time, or about how clocks affected our sleep patterns.

Not only does Ramirez do a good job teaching the reader about the invention in question in each chapter, but she also excels at bringing to light the unknown inventors behind these technologies. This includes highlighting the women and people of color that history often doesn’t talk about. To be honest, I found these stories of the little known people behind these inventions even more interesting than the stories of the inventors that everyone knows the names of.

Happy reading 🙂

BOOK REVIEW: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

This review is going to focus on The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks written by Rebecca Skloot. This book was published in 2010–which means it’s out there for you to read folks! I had heard many good things about this book and bought it several years ago. Then I went back to graduate school and reading for fun wasn’t at the top of my priority list so this book lived on my TBR shelf for quite a while.

This book is a non-fiction biography that tells the story of Henrietta Lacks and her legacy through science and her family’s story. If you’re into science you may have heard of HeLa cells–they came from Henrietta.

Henrietta was a tobacco farmer. She lived and worked on the same land that her ancestors did. Then she got sick. She went to Johns Hopkins for some tests and found out that she had cervical cancer. The cells that were taken for biopsy were also used to try and grow more cells for research, without her consent. These cells were the beginning of HeLa, and they are still alive today.

Although Henrietta succumbed to her disease, her cells were responsible for virus and cancer research, studying the aftermath of an atom bomb, and helping to develop the polio vaccine, in vitro ferilization and gene mapping to name a few uses.

Not only did Rebecca Skloot bring to light the scientific importance of the cells, but she highlights the wrong doing that the scientific community performed by taking human cells without permission, and also by not financially helping the Lacks family.

Henrietta’s daughter, Deborah is a large part of the research that Rebecca did to uncover the story behind HeLa. Deborah and her siblings did not handle learning about the cells well. Deborah didn’t understand how cells work, and had many health problems of her own.

This book was very interesting in that it talked in both science and emotion. I finished reading this book in just a couple days and would love to learn more about what HeLa has helped develop around the world. However, it is also an important work highlighting injustices against African Americans in this country and an example of how they were taken advantage of and experimented on.

Happy reading 🙂