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Perri Klass, who had already written of her medical school education (A Not Entirely Benign Procedure: Four Years as a Medical Student, see this database), took notes, made dashed journal entries, and saved sign-out sheets and other written memorabilia during her internship and residency in pediatrics at The Children’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts. Because she is a writer, she looked at her experiences in medical training with an eye towards what stories were happening. This book then is a compendium of stories and essays (some previously published) about Klass’s pediatrics training.
Klass reflects on the difficulties of being a writer and physician: "I have been a double parasite, not only learning off patients, but also writing about them, turning the agonies of sick children into articles, using them to point little morals either about my own development as a doctor or about the dilemmas of modern medicine." (p. 297) But she also notes the benefits of writing during training: "between life at the hospital and with my family, it seemed that all my time was spoken for, and spoken for again. I needed some corner of my life which was all my own, and that corner was writing . . . I could describe the astonishing contacts with life and death which make up everyday routine in the hospital." (p. xvii)
Part of the book concerns issues of women in medicine; Klass debunks the mystique of the "superwoman"--the professional, wife and mother rolled up into one incredible ball of efficiency and perfection--with a month of laundry spilling over the floor. Klass, as a successful writer, struggles with this label and includes an essay on her experiences with a "crazy person" who anonymously and publicly accuses her of plagiarism in the midst of the stress and responsibilities of residency.
However, most of the book is about being a new doctor--the terror, the patients, the procedures, the other doctors and staff. She writes of first nights in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, delivery room crises, adolescents with chronic illnesses, and her struggles as a sleep and time deprived mother.
She addresses difficult issues: moral dilemmas, suffering, loss, the rape and abuse of children, children with AIDS. Throughout the book is a concern for the patient’s experience, as well as the doctor-in-training’s experience. After her first night on call caring for very premature infants she notes: "Maybe my first patient and I have more in common than I realized: we are both too immature to be out in the world, but with a lot of help, we may just make it." (p. 15)
Alicia (Norma Aleandro) lives a comfortable life with her husband Roberto (H?tor Alterio) and her adopted five-year-old daughter, Gaby (Analia Castro). She teaches history in a boy's prep school and is a stickler for rules, insisting that her students confine classroom discussion and essays to events as they are related in textbooks and official documents ("the official story"). She believes only what she reads but her students have been radicalized by political events and defiantly tell her that "history is written by assassins."
When her old friend, Ana (Chunchuna Villafane), returns after living abroad for several years, Alicia learns that Ana had been held prisoner and tortured for more than a month by members of the former regime, as they attempted to extort from her the whereabouts of her husband, a "subversive." From Ana she learns that many others had been held prisoner, tortured, murdered, and that infants had been taken from their mothers.
When Alicia goes to her classes she encounters street demonstrations demanding the return of the "disappeared." Her well ordered life begins to unravel as she wonders about her adopted child's true origins. She questions her husband, who had arranged for the adoption, but he brushes her off, saying that it is of no concern to her. Not satisfied with this response, she searches hospital records and government archives.
At one of these occasions three women who are searching for "disappeared" relatives overhear and approach her. She becomes increasingly convinced that her daughter must have been taken from a murdered political prisoner. She is grief-stricken at the thought that she might have to give her daughter up but at the same time she empathizes with the unknown relatives who have lost the child; she is in despair.
When Sara (Chela Ruiz), one of the three women, presents to her convincing evidence that Gaby is actually her own granddaughter, Alicia confronts her husband in Sara's presence. Alicia has come to believe that Roberto--an admitted rightist--was duplicitous but he ridicules them both and, after Sara leaves, becomes enraged with his wife, brutally attacking and physically injuring her. She leaves him.
It is the year 2021. The last birth recorded on earth occurred in 1995 (Year Omega). In England, Xan Lyppiatt is Warden; he promises security, comfort, and pleasure to his people. Xan's cousin, Theo Faron, Ph.D., retired professor of history at Merton College, Oxford, becomes involved with 5 people who oppose Xan's worst policies: the Quietus ("voluntary" mass suicides of the elderly), the sending of all criminals to the Man Penal Colony where there is no one to control cruelty, the rules forbidding Brits from traveling abroad and allowing only Sojourners (slave/workers) to emigrate, the compulsory testing of sperm and routine examinations of healthy women, and state-run porn shops. Theo and the 5, one of whom is pregnant, flee to avoid capture by Xan's men.
To take care of Aunt Martha, a Mississippi family agrees to a cousin's moving in with her; cousin Howie then maneuvers the family into running a home for the elderly. Martha agrees because Lucas, a physician with whom she's had a long relationship, will come to live there. As more elders come and as they get sick, the methods (restraints, use of drugs, unclean conditions) of Howie and his hired staff become a threat to all.
Martha and Lucas are rendered powerless by their inability to make the family believe their side of the story; even Harper, the family's longtime African-American butler, cannot help. Because he fears that Howie will sedate both of them into oblivion, Lucas decides to burn the house down--after killing several of the "prisoners" first.
The Earth has been destroyed in a nuclear holocaust and a group of unconscious survivors have been taken by the alien Oankalis to the mother ship and placed in "sleeping" pods for some 250 years. One of the humans, Lilith Iyapo, is awakened and slowly trained by the Oankali not to be afraid of their horrifying (to humans) appearance. She comes to an uneasy truce and trust in the Oankali's explanation of where she is and her role: she has been chosen to awaken a select group (based on her reading of detailed personal resumes).
As she awakens them, one by one, she confronts their anger and confusion and, eventually, their resistance to the notion of gene trading proposed by the Oankali. Lilith becomes a mediator between the humans and the Oankalis, giving birth to a son interbred by her and an Oankali.
This narrative poem relates the speaker's memory of neighborhood boys tying her and a friend "spread-eagled" to a garage door and teasing them in a way that borders on being sexually threatening. The speaker tried (and eventually succeeded) in convincing the boys to let her and her friend go. The poem subtly explores the shifting relations between girls and boys--and between girls and themselves--on the border of childhood and adulthood, focusing on the tensions of girls moving from seeming sexlessness to sexuality and womanhood, and the prices that might entail.
This mystery novel, set in Chicago, centers on a nursing home called The Larkspur. Chips Devlin is, after the death of his housekeeper, placed in The Larkspur by a relative. Chips has been a mentor to Jimmy Flannery, who tries to find out why Chips has been so hastily put there.
Nosing around through Chicago's political and public service offices. Jimmy calls in favors and hands them out in an effort to learn what's really going on at The Larkspur, the 3-story converted mansion with a big back yard (complete with duck pond). After an elderly man who Jimmy had asked to be a lookout is murdered, Jimmy kidnaps Chips from The Larkspur but can't keep himself from trying to help those that remain by solving the murder.
The Changes is set in the deep South during the depression. A fifteen year old girl, whose main ambition is to finish school and go to college, witnesses her mother’s intentional starvation. The family attributes their mother’s irrational behavior to menopause, believing that all women going through "the change" become crazy.
The young daughter not only fears that her mother’s insanity is hereditary, but also that it may be partly her fault. The reader suspects that the mother may have intended to die in order that her daughter could afford to go school. The family seems to feel that the daughter’s presence in the household somehow drove her mother to insanity.
The thirty-four autobiographical essays were written while Klass was a medical student in the Harvard class of 1986. Many of her short chapters were previously published as columns in magazines, journals and newspapers. The insightful but often funny stories cover a variety of scientific and clinical subjects, lifestyle, eating habits, and relationships with other professionals, including nurses.
Pregnancy and the birth of her son half-way though training makes her experience somewhat unusual. In several other essays, including "Macho" and "Learning the Language," Klass reveals her particular sensitivity to language and the advantages and disadvantages of professional discourse.
B.D. and Ryan are completing their tour of duty in Vietnam. They are bonded to each other--"some kind of cultish remnant"--because they are the only men from the original unit who have not returned home. Unexpectedly, a new lieutenant takes command. He views the unit as undisciplined; he lacks patience and a sense of humor.
Ryan's reaction is sarcastic mimicry, which the lieutenant overhears. When challenged, Ryan responds with a scurrilous comment. This initiates a menacing, deadly interaction between them. B.D. watches this interaction helplessly. He tries to persuade Ryan: "All you have to do . . . is keep quiet." (22) But Ryan can't help himself; his mission is to make the lieutenant aware of "what an asshole he is." (21)
B.D. feels increasingly desperate, fantasizing that he will blow the lieutenant up with a grenade. When he tries to enlist help from the former unit head the latter suggests that B.D. put himself in the line of fire in place of Ryan. B.D. realizes that officers stick together, and, even worse, he feels "weak, corrupt, and afraid." (30) Soon thereafter, Ryan is killed during a routine mission.