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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.
This novel tells the story of Jess Goldberg, a transgendered "butch" growing up in Buffalo, New York. Jess first learns to admit and negotiate her attraction to women and her butch identity. Immediately, she is faced with violence. The police raid the lesbian bars, arrest any woman wearing fewer than three articles of women’s clothing and routinely beat, strip, or rape them. Jess and her friends also face the violence of bashers who attack without cause on dark or well-lighted streets.
Nevertheless, Jess refuses to compromise. From a doctor, she gets a prescription for testosterone, goes to a gym and transforms herself into a bearded, muscular man. Having saved two thousand dollars, she has a mastectomy done. The doctor falsifies a biopsy, performs the surgery and makes her leave. By the end of the novel, Jess is secure in her identity and determines to fight to make the world safe for others like her.
This first collection of poems includes a series of strong and well-crafted personal narratives. Several deal with the poet's experience in nurse's training. For example, in "Down There" she recalls childhood baths when she would squat and pour a jug of warm water between her legs ("down there") as she washes post-operative women and thinks of the intensely poetic hospital questions, "Can you make wind? / Can you make water?"
In "We Were Gulls" she visualizes the nursing students on Ward Nine and evokes their encounter with a repulsive old man who said, "there isn't a one of you / I wouldn't give a squeeze to / if I could hold you / in my arms / right here in this bed." In "In the Hospital Garden" she recalls the titillating episode of a doctor's wife who gave birth to a "radiation mutation."
But the poet's nursing is not confined to the professional sphere--in "Madame Abundance" she speaks of her son's "string of drool" against her own "milk-dampened blouse of the breast." Poems like "Night Terror," "The Street Where We Lived," and "At the Horse Pavilion" bring the reader into the love and pain of family life. "How long will it last?" the poet asks in one of her poems. In another she answers, "I live alone / I live alone / I live alone / I live alone."
Linda Bishop tells the story of her early years as a nursing student. She soon realizes that she doesn't actually want to be a nurse, but she continues in training, "waiting for some unspeakable horror that I could hold up to the light to prove to myself that the hospital was a truly monstrous place."
While Linda is quiet and sexually inexperienced, her first roommate, Holly Bostwick (Boss), is reputed to have a sensational sexual history and to be afflicted with syphilis. When Linda brings Holly home for Thanksgiving, Linda's mother is impressed with her daughter's new friend, a young woman much more confident and articulate than ambivalent Linda.
Somewhat later, after Boss becomes engaged to a gas station owner, Linda returns by train from visiting her parents. She is determined to make a final decision. She lists what she hates about the hospital and what she likes about it. Will she leave or will she stay?
Stella is the wife of Max Raphael, the deputy superintendent of a maximum security psychiatric hospital near London (based perhaps on Broadmoor, where the author's father was medical superintendent), and mother of a ten-year-old son. She becomes involved in an obsessive sexual affair with one of the institution's patients, Edgar Stark, a schizophrenic sculptor institutionalized after murdering and decapitating his wife.
Stark uses his affair with Stella to escape, and she runs away to London to join him. After a few passionate but squalid weeks in hiding, Edgar's illness resurfaces, evinced both in the violence he shows to a sculpture he's making of Stella's head, and in his paranoid jealousy. She runs away from him and is captured by the police and returned her to her husband, who has been fired because of his wife's role in the escape of so dangerous an inmate.
The family moves to a remote hospital in North Wales, where Max has a minor position, and Stella becomes severely depressed, to the extent that she stands by helplessly as her son dies in an accidental drowning. As a result, she is institutionalized--she returns to the hospital, not as the superintendent's wife, but as a patient. Edgar has meanwhile been recaptured (in North Wales, seeking out Stella either to take her with him or to kill her), but they never meet again, for Stella commits suicide.