Synopses & Reviews
In 2004 genetic testing revealed that Masha Gessen had a mutation that predisposed her to ovarian and breast cancer. The discovery initiated Gessen into a club of sorts: the small (but exponentially expanding) group of people in possession of a new and different way of knowing themselves through what is inscribed in the strands of their DNA. As she wrestled with a wrenching personal decision (what to do with such knowledge) Gessen explored the landscape of this brave new world, speaking with others like her and with experts including medical researchers, historians, and religious thinkers.
Blood Matters is a much-needed field guide to this unfamiliar and unsettling territory. It explores the way genetic information is shaping the decisions we make, not only about our physical and emotional health but about whom we marry, the children we bear, even the personality traits we long to have. And it helps us come to terms with the radical transformation that genetic information is engineering in our most basic sense of who we are and what we might become.
"This energetic but unfocused account awkwardly merges several strands: the author's experience with the threat of breast cancer, discussions of genetic inheritance in Jewish families and a look at how the ability to test for genetic predispositions to various diseases is changing lives. With a family history of breast cancer, journalist Gessen (Dead Again: The Russian Intelligentsia After Communism) was not surprised to learn she had inherited a 'deleterious mutation' in the BRCA1 gene, one of two genes known to be linked to breast and ovarian cancer. The BRCA1 mutation was first discovered in Jewish women, a 'compact population' with a higher-than-average breast cancer rate. Gessen describes her narrow options, with 'nondirective counseling' steering her toward prophylactic removal of her breasts and ovaries. Then she jumps the track to talk about Dr. Henry Lynch, who, in 1966, first suggested that predisposition to cancer might be hereditary. Gessen also covers Huntington's disease, maple syrup disease among Old Order Mennonites, eugenics and how a genetic testing program is affecting marital choices for some Orthodox Jews. Gessen covers a fair amount of ground, but in a haphazard fashion. The book's strongest parts are on genetics and heredity in the Jewish community." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Blood Matters is valuable reading to almost anyone facing a huge health decision, not only for the literary commiseration it offers, but also for the inspired example of medical sleuthing on one's own behalf that it provides ... The enduring memory one takes away is Gessen's intelligence and wit as she's staring down the barrel of a gun."
PRAISE FOR ESTER AND RUZYA
"Reviewers sometimes call a work of nonfiction 'as exciting as a novel,' but that would be an understatement applied to this extraordinary family memoir . . . Ester and Ruzya will remind you how much life, history and emotional and moral complexity the genre can convey in the hands of a wonderful writer."The New York Times Book Review
Genetic testing revealed that Gessen had a mutation that predisposed her to ovarian and breast cancer. As she wrestled with what to do with such knowledge, Gessen explored the landscape of this brave new world, speaking with others like her and with medical experts.
Having inherited a heightened risk for cancer, a journalist travels to the frontlines of genetics and finds both personal guidance and a fascinating new world of scientific discovery
ADVANCE PRAISE FOR BLOOD MATTERS
"Blood Matters is beautifully written--and that is the least of its charms. Masha Gessen's new book takes its readers from the leading edge of modern genetic medicine through the hardest, grittiest kind of daily, personal experience, questions literally of life and death. Ultimately, Gessen gently, unflinchingly confronts the hard choices that come from our deepening knowledge of our genetic selves. The story she tells has versions encoded in every human being alive--which means that she has written both a marvelous read and an important book."--Thomas Levenson, author of Einstein in Berlin
After genetic testing revealed her predisposposition to ovarian and breast cancer, the author composed this valuable and extensively researched field guide to the significant role DNA plays in making us who we are.
When genetic testing revealed that Masha Gessen had the dreaded BRCA1 genetic mutation--the same mutation made famous recently by Angelina Jolie, which predisposes women to ovarian and breast cancer -- she composed this valuable and extensively researched field guide to the significant role DNA plays in making us who we are.
About the Author
MASHA GESSEN is a journalist who has written for Slate, Seed, the New Republic, the New York Times, and other publications, and is the author of two previous books. She lives in Moscow.
Table of Contents
part 1: the past
1 My Mothers Fatal Flaw 3
2 The Four Mothers of Jews 15
3 The Post-Nazi Era 57
part 2: the present
4 Indecision 71
5 A Decision at Any Cost 78
6 The Father of Hereditary Cancers 117
7 The Cruelest Disease 139
8 The Science of Matchmaking 166
9 The Operation 191
part 3: the future
10 The Future the Old-Fashioned Way 199
11 Biobabble 238
12 What We Fear Most 264
Glossary of Key Terms 285
Notes on Sources 289