Pandora's DNA: Tracing the Breast Cancer Genes Through History, Science, and One Family Tree

Chicago Review Press
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2015 ALA Notable Book Would you cut out your healthy breasts and ovaries if you thought it might save your life? That's not a theoretical question for journalist Lizzie Stark's relatives, who grapple with the horrific legacy of cancer built into the family DNA, a BRCA mutation that has robbed most of her female relatives of breasts, ovaries, peace of mind, or life itself. In Pandora's DNA, Stark uses her family's experience to frame a larger story about the so-called breast cancer genes, exploring the morass of legal quandaries, scientific developments, medical breakthroughs, and ethical concerns that surround the BRCA mutations, from the troubling history of prophylactic surgery and the storied origins of the boob job to the landmark lawsuit against Myriad Genetics, which held patents on the BRCA genes every human carries in their body until the Supreme Court overturned them in 2013. Although a genetic test for cancer risk may sound like the height of scientific development, the treatment remains crude and barbaric. Through her own experience, Stark shows what it's like to live in a brave new world where gazing into a crystal ball of genetics has many unintended consequences.
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About the author

Lizzie Stark is the author of Leaving Mundania and a freelance journalist who has written for io9.com, The Today Show website, Psychology Today, the Daily Beast, and the Philadelphia Inquirer. She holds an MS in New Media Journalism from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. 
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Additional Information

Publisher
Chicago Review Press
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Published on
Oct 1, 2014
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Pages
336
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ISBN
9781613748633
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Language
English
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Genres
Biography & Autobiography / Medical
Medical / History
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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How unassuming government researcher Marshall Nirenberg beat James Watson, Francis Crick, and other world-famous scientists in the race to discover the genetic code.

The genetic code is the Rosetta Stone by which we interpret the 3.3 billion letters of human DNA, the alphabet of life, and the discovery of the code has had an immeasurable impact on science and society. In 1968, Marshall Nirenberg, an unassuming government scientist working at the National Institutes of Health, shared the Nobel Prize for cracking the genetic code. He was the least likely man to make such an earth-shaking discovery, and yet he had gotten there before such members of the scientific elite as James Watson and Francis Crick. How did Nirenberg do it, and why is he so little known? In The Least Likely Man, Franklin Portugal tells the fascinating life story of a famous scientist that most of us have never heard of.

Nirenberg did not have a particularly brilliant undergraduate or graduate career. After being hired as a researcher at the NIH, he quietly explored how cells make proteins. Meanwhile, Watson, Crick, and eighteen other leading scientists had formed the “RNA Tie Club” (named after the distinctive ties they wore, each decorated with one of twenty amino acid designs), intending to claim credit for the discovery of the genetic code before they had even worked out the details. They were surprised, and displeased, when Nirenberg announced his preliminary findings of a genetic code at an international meeting in Moscow in 1961.

Drawing on Nirenberg's “lab diaries,” Portugal offers an engaging and accessible account of Nirenberg's experimental approach, describes counterclaims by Crick, Watson, and Sidney Brenner, and traces Nirenberg's later switch to an entirely new, even more challenging field. Having won the Nobel for his work on the genetic code, Nirenberg moved on to the next frontier of biological research: how the brain works.

"[Kolata] is a gifted storyteller. Her account of the Baxleys... is both engrossing and distressing... Kolata's book raises crucial questions about knowledge that can be both vital and fatal, both pallative and dangerous." —Andrew Solomon, The New York Review of Books

New York Times science reporter Gina Kolata follows a family through genetic illness and one courageous daughter who decides her fate shall no longer be decided by a genetic flaw.

The phone rings. The doctor from California is on the line. “Are you ready Amanda?” The two people Amanda Baxley loves the most had begged her not to be tested—at least, not now. But she had to find out.

If your family carried a mutated gene that foretold a brutal illness and you were offered the chance to find out if you’d inherited it, would you do it? Would you walk toward the problem, bravely accepting whatever answer came your way? Or would you avoid the potential bad news as long as possible?

In Mercies in Disguise, acclaimed New York Times science reporter and bestselling author Gina Kolata tells the story of the Baxleys, an almost archetypal family in a small town in South Carolina. A proud and determined clan, many of them doctors, they are struck one by one with an inscrutable illness. They finally discover the cause of the disease after a remarkable sequence of events that many saw as providential. Meanwhile, science, progressing for a half a century along a parallel track, had handed the Baxleys a resolution—not a cure, but a blood test that would reveal who had the gene for the disease and who did not. And science would offer another dilemma—fertility specialists had created a way to spare the children through an expensive process.

A work of narrative nonfiction, Mercies in Disguise is the story of a family that took matters into its own hands when the medical world abandoned them. It’s a story of a family that had to deal with unspeakable tragedy and yet did not allow it to tear them apart. And it is the story of a young woman—Amanda Baxley—who faced the future head on, determined to find a way to disrupt her family’s destiny.

The #1 NEW YORK TIMES Bestseller
A New York Times Notable Book
A Washington Post and Seattle Times Best Book of the Year

From the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of The Emperor of All Maladies—a fascinating history of the gene and “a magisterial account of how human minds have laboriously, ingeniously picked apart what makes us tick” (Elle).

“Dr. Siddhartha Mukherjee dazzled readers with his Pulitzer Prize-winning The Emperor of All Maladies in 2010. That achievement was evidently just a warm-up for his virtuoso performance in The Gene: An Intimate History, in which he braids science, history, and memoir into an epic with all the range and biblical thunder of Paradise Lost” (The New York Times). In this biography Mukherjee brings to life the quest to understand human heredity and its surprising influence on our lives, personalities, identities, fates, and choices.

“Mukherjee expresses abstract intellectual ideas through emotional stories…[and] swaddles his medical rigor with rhapsodic tenderness, surprising vulnerability, and occasional flashes of pure poetry” (The Washington Post). Throughout, the story of Mukherjee’s own family—with its tragic and bewildering history of mental illness—reminds us of the questions that hang over our ability to translate the science of genetics from the laboratory to the real world. In riveting and dramatic prose, he describes the centuries of research and experimentation—from Aristotle and Pythagoras to Mendel and Darwin, from Boveri and Morgan to Crick, Watson and Franklin, all the way through the revolutionary twenty-first century innovators who mapped the human genome.

“A fascinating and often sobering history of how humans came to understand the roles of genes in making us who we are—and what our manipulation of those genes might mean for our future” (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel), The Gene is the revelatory and magisterial history of a scientific idea coming to life, the most crucial science of our time, intimately explained by a master. “The Gene is a book we all should read” (USA TODAY).
This guide introduces gamers, actors, and other imaginative folks to this emerging form. American freeform games share a common format—they are rules-light one-shot productions, a bit like improv theater games performed without an audience, requiring only a few people, and lasting for several hours. With few setting or scenography requirements, these games are easy to run, and are especially friendly to new players and organizers. 

Leaving Mundania author Lizzie Stark takes the reader through the history and development of the style, which counts US chamber larp, indie games and Nordic larp and freeform among its influences. The guide provides easy-to-understand instruction on how to play, run, and write these short scenarios, as well as advanced tips for those who want a deep dive.

Calling all theater educators, improv actors, and larpers: come join the American freeform revolution.

“If you are new to freeform roleplaying, the Pocket Guide to American Freeform is really useful. If you are a grizzled veteran who knows everything, it is a necessity.” 

-Jason Morningstar, creator of Fiasco, Bully Pulpit Games

“Lizzie Stark is a uniquely important figure in the LARP community, bringing Nordic design know-how to the American gaming experience. In this book, she shares her key findings from the experimental side of the American larp scene as well as the critical components to designing these kinds of games. If you’re a roleplayer looking to make the leap into less linear, more potent, and more original work, the Pocket Guide to American Freeform is the first book you should read.”

–Nick Fortugno, Playmatics

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, and now a documentary from Ken Burns on PBS, The Emperor of All Maladies is a magnificent, profoundly humane “biography” of cancer—from its first documented appearances thousands of years ago through the epic battles in the twentieth century to cure, control, and conquer it to a radical new understanding of its essence.

Physician, researcher, and award-winning science writer, Siddhartha Mukherjee examines cancer with a cellular biologist’s precision, a historian’s perspective, and a biographer’s passion. The result is an astonishingly lucid and eloquent chronicle of a disease humans have lived with—and perished from—for more than five thousand years.

The story of cancer is a story of human ingenuity, resilience, and perseverance, but also of hubris, paternalism, and misperception. Mukherjee recounts centuries of discoveries, setbacks, victories, and deaths, told through the eyes of his predecessors and peers, training their wits against an infinitely resourceful adversary that, just three decades ago, was thought to be easily vanquished in an all-out “war against cancer.” The book reads like a literary thriller with cancer as the protagonist.

From the Persian Queen Atossa, whose Greek slave may have cut off her diseased breast, to the nineteenth-century recipients of primitive radiation and chemotherapy to Mukherjee’s own leukemia patient, Carla, The Emperor of All Maladies is about the people who have soldiered through fiercely demanding regimens in order to survive—and to increase our understanding of this iconic disease.

Riveting, urgent, and surprising, The Emperor of All Maladies provides a fascinating glimpse into the future of cancer treatments. It is an illuminating book that provides hope and clarity to those seeking to demystify cancer.
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