Tag Archive | cancer

Oh, such joy! ONCE UPON AN EID, edited by S.K. Ali & Aisha Saeed (book review)

book cover of Once Upon an Eid, edited by S.K. Ali & Aisha Saeed. Published by Amulet Books | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Watching for the new moon to appear,
Special foods enjoyed for generations,
Gifts and love and faith and joy!

Muslims observe the two Eid holidays with celebratory traditions as varied as the world is wide.

New clothes can be a hallmark of Eid – even as cousins Hawa and Fanta disagree about which style of dress is “Perfect” during the African community’s Eid parties in New York City or Makayla worries that friends will make fun of her new-ish abaya from the second-hand store in “Creative Fixes.”

Gifts” make Eid special for Idrees who begins understanding that giving is more important than getting, and a young man saving up for a new bike is repeatedly reminded by his grandmother that his name “Kareem means ‘generous’. “

The same foods every year are family traditions, so when big sister is busy, it’s just “Yusuf and the Big Brownie Mishap”, and Nadia quietly goes to the bakery for their favorite pastries while Mama sleeps after chemo in “Don’ut Break Tradition.”

Despair lifts when a kind Greek villager helps Bassem “Searching for Blue” bring the taste of Eid love to his refugee camp, and a grieving father helps his daughter try to make the “Taste” of Mama’s special lontong, always cooked by heart in their Malaysian apartment instead of written down.

Going high above the City of Boundless Light, “Seraj Captures the Moon” marking the end of Ramadan in a graphic novel illustrated by the same artist who sketched the chapter headings and book cover showing young people preparing for Eid from Canada to the US to Australia.

Fifteen Muslim authors bring us stories that reflect the wide range of community and family traditions for celebrating Eid – all with food, all with love, all with renewed hope.

What says home and hope to you?

Book info: Once Upon an Eid: Stories of Hope and Joy by 15 Muslim Voices / edited by S. K. Ali and Aisha Saeed; illustrated by Sara Alfageeh. Amulet Books, 2020. [S. K. site] [Aisha site] [Sara site] [publisher site] Personal copy; video and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

B is BRAVE ENOUGH to beat the odds? by Kati Gardner (book review)

book cover of Brave Enough, by Kati Gardner. Published by Flux Books | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Dancing through pain is part of ballet,
Managing pain is part of cancer treatment,
Emotional pain makes both so much harder to handle.

Of course, Davis won’t get addicted to pain medications after chemo is done…

Of course, Cason will ace the national ballet audition and escape her mother’s perfectionism…

But the human body can only do so much, and the teen psyche copes as best it can.

The “minor strain” in Cason’s strong, perfect ballerina’s leg is instead life-threatening.

The need to escape back into drugs after months of rehab is so much stronger than Davis could ever imagine.

She’s in the Atlanta pediatric oncology ward for treatment, he’s there for community service, they get along well enough… maybe.

Is Cason brave enough to even walk again?
Can Davis walk away from the pills and pain he’s caused others?
Maybe time at Camp Chemo will help them both see a future…

The author is an actor, cancer survivor, and amputee. Her next #ownvoice book, Finding Balance , starts at Camp Chemo and will be published in May 2020.

When did an outside event make you change big plans?

Book info: Brave Enough / Kati Gardner. Flux / NorthStar, 2018. [author Facebook] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Memory of Things, by Gae Polisner (book review) – amnesia, remembering, 9/11

book cover of The Memory of Things by Gae Polisner published by St Martins Griffin | recommended on BooksYALove.comAshes, smoke, run!
Tension, wings, jumping?
Rescued! Memory? gone…

Kyle can’t unsee the Twin Towers falling on 9/11, can’t unrescue the ash-covered girl with costume wings and no memory, can’t unwish that she would stay with him as he cares for paralyzed Uncle Matt while Mom is stuck in LA with his little sister and Dad is at Ground Zero with his police squad and other rescue workers.

You can find this September 2016 release at your local library or independent bookstore to meet Kyle and Uncle Matt and the jagged-hair girl with wings.

What things have the most weight in your own memories?

Book info: The Memory of Things / Gae Polisner. St. Martin’s Griffin, 2016.  [author site]  [publisher site]   Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Rushing across the Brooklyn Bridge on 9/11, Kyle spots a girl wearing wings, covered with ashes, poised to jump?

Safely home, the 16-year-old finds that the girl can’t remember her name, he can’t get his dad in downtown New York City on the phone, his mom and sister can’t get home from LA, and paralyzed Uncle Matt’s caregiver can’t get to his family’s apartment.

What can Kyle do but help Uncle Matt, keep trying to contact Dad, and wonder if the girl will get her memory back?

He longs for Uncle Matt to recover faster from the wreck that ended his police career (all Donohue men are cops, says his granddad, but Kyle loves music so), for his family to be together, for the girl to stay…

A love story in the wake of disaster, a family story that endures, a possibility of happy endings. (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

R for Radiate, by Marley Gibson (fiction) – cheerleading, cancer, redemption

Go for your dream!
Work hard, practice hard, cheer hard!
Cancer? How can she have bone cancer?

Hayley isn’t going to let surgery or radiation or chemo stop her. It’s her senior year and her only chance to shine as a cheerleader. Stubborn runs in the family, it seems, and her parents’ reluctance to tell her about their hardware store’s dire financial situation could be their undoing.

Great that her grade-school buddy Gabe has moved back to town and is the football team trainer; he’ll make sure that she does her physical therapy correctly before cheer practice every day. Not so great that her hair falls out from the chemotherapy or that her boyfriend Daniel is so squeamish about medical stuff.

The author had bone cancer in high school and used her experiences as the basis of Hayley’s story. She is setting up the Radiate Foundation so that local cheerleading groups can bring goodie baskets, cheers, and smiles to pediatric cancer patients during their hospital stays, just like those visiting cheerleaders did for Hayley.

Book info: Radiate / Marley Gibson. Graphia Books/HMH, 2012. [author’s website] [book website] [publisher site] [book trailer]

My Recommendation: Hayley decided to try out for cheerleader her senior year and made it! That painful lump on her leg must be just from practicing too hard, learning learning all the cheers. But it’s bone cancer…

No time to waste on worrying about it – it’s aggressive cancer and Hayley’s doctor uncle helps her find the best treatment at the University hospital, three hours away from home and her handsome football player boyfriend Daniel and her buddies and her childhood pal Gabe who just moved back to town.

Thank goodness for cellphones and computers so she can stay in touch a bit. Head cheerleader Chloe isn’t very sympathetic, more worried about having an unbalanced cheer squad for cheerleading camp than about Hayley enduring chemotherapy before school starts.

It’s tough for Hayley to miss cheer camp, to miss the first football game, to stay away from her friends for so many weeks. Thankfully, a group of cheerleaders from a high school near the university find out she was there and burst into her hospital room to invite her to come to their practice and teach them some PHS cheers.

Finally, Hayley gets to go home, back to school – on crutches, with a huge scar on her leg, and with exacting physical therapy instructions – determined to cheer again. But even the most positive thoughts won’t stop her from losing her hair after chemo, won’t keep Daniel close to her, won’t make Chloe less snippy about Hayley missing a little practice time to do her physical therapy under Gabe’s supervision.

Can she truly overcome this cancer? Will her medical bills overwhelm her family? Will her long-absent big sister finally come home to see her?

Based on the author’s true experiences with bone cancer as a teen, Hayley’s story goes beyond mere medical facts to explore what it takes to truly Radiate as a positive force to help others overcome the odds in their lives, too. (One of 5,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com) Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Dry Souls, by Denise Getson (book review) – drought forever, water-bringer, escape

book cover of Dry Souls by Denise Getson published by CBAY Books

The power to bring water to dry land – any desert-dweller would want to have that gift, to create an oasis of water for drinking and crops, right?

But access to water is a powerful need, as any farmer or city manager will tell you, even today.

Imagine water-access as a political tool, as a crowd-management strategy, and you’ll see why Kira’s gift of water in the drought-stricken, devastated environment of our possible future is something that powerful people want so very badly to control.

A stunning debut novel with memorable characters and pacing worthy of a motion picture (and I mean that in a good way). Have your local independent bookstore order Dry Souls for you, and be sure to tell your library about it so they can get a copy, too.

Book info: Dry Souls / Denise Getson. CBAY Books, 2011. [author’s Facebook page] [publisher site] [book trailer] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My Book Talk: A flower? Kira wonders how a non-food plant survived the pollution and planetary drought that are killing humanity. In her desperation to keep the flower alive, Kira discovers that she can bring water to the ground with her fingertip!

When Matron finds the flower and decides to send her away from the orphanage, Kira knows that it’s time to run away, to head for the Dead Lakes Region where her mother had lived. Crossing toxic streams, encountering mutant wildlife, how long can Kira make it through this desolation created by worldwide chemical and biological warfare on her own?

Meeting up with JD who’s escaping from a boys’ orphanage was a stroke of luck for both teens, as they pool their skills and resources to survive. When they have to steal algae-bars from remote outposts, Kira creates water in repayment. They hide by day, traveling at night, heading for a Biosphere where they can get more nutritionals and sunblock to counteract the pollutants in the food and air.

But officials searching for Kira have reached the Biosphere first, and the friends must find a way to escape again before she’s captured for her water-creating abilities. A blind woman reading Kira’s palm recites an old proverb about water – and that’s supposed to help them find their way to Slag?

Can JD and Kira really survive a journey through the wasteland that the Devastation left behind?
What might they discover at the far-distant Dead Lakes to make it worth the journey?
If the officials are tracking them, will they even make it to tomorrow?

This debut novel is a brilliant dystopian future-view that begs to be made into a movie, that warns us of what our future could be, that urges us to have the vision to preserve our world. (194 pages) (One of 5,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com) Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.


Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (non-fiction)

Shhh… another Sneak-In Saturday. This book zoomed and leaped onto award and bestseller lists before I could get it here, but you really must read it.

The idea of “informed medical consent” was rather different sixty years ago, as were medical research techniques.

Henrietta Lacks thought that she was only being treated for cervical cancer.
She had no idea that doctors had taken cell samples for later use.
And the rest is medical history…

Book info: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks / Rebecca Skloot. Random House, 2010 (hardback), 2011 (paperback) [author’s website] [publisher site] [book trailer]

Recommendation: When Henrietta Lacks was treated for cancer in the “colored” ward of the hospital in 1951, doctors took cell samples for research without telling her. In the laboratory, those cells became the first self-sustaining (“immortal”) human cells, enabling countless experiments with medicines and therapies.

The Johns Hopkins Hospital researchers shared those HeLa cells with other scientists, who used them to develop vaccines against polio, catalog the effects of radiation on humans, and make advances toward in vitro fertilization and gene mapping. Eventually, HeLa cells were grown in medical factories, becoming a multimillion dollar industry as researchers worldwide used them.

Yet Henrietta’s family didn’t know that her cells were being used for anything; they could only grieve at her death, as she left behind a large African American family, moved not so long before from their small tobacco farm in Virginia to work in Baltimore for better wages.

More than 20 years after HeLa began growing in the lab, Henrietta’s children learned that some part of their mother was still alive. Poorly educated, they thought perhaps that scientists could bring their mother back to life or that the HeLa cells sent on lunar missions meant that she was now living on the Moon. After those first, confusing interviews in the 1970s, the Lacks family refused to talk to any reporters or researchers.

Finally in the late 1990s, the writer of this book and Henrietta’s youngest daughter began investigating the family’s history and the amazing tale of how HeLa cells enabled so many discoveries in medicine and science.

Did her family ever receive any benefit from Henrietta’s cells? No. Can her descendants afford health insurance today? No. Have the laws changed so that patients have more control over what their cells and tissues are used for? Yes, but…

A fascinating science detective tale threaded with questions of medical ethics and wrapped up in family history, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks reminds us of the human side of scientific advancement – an award-winning story, well-told.

(One of 5,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com) Review copy courtesy of the publisher.