"Radium Girls," by Kate Moore

This terrific book is about two of my favorite themes: fighting for justice and giving voice to the voiceless.

It’s an exhaustively researched 475-page tome that flies by with the speed of a novel. I appreciated that the author, being a theater director, was committed to assembling a deep cast of characters and putting the story in their own words and the words of their family and friends as much as possible.

"Radium Girls" truly puts women at the heart of the story. These women who worked in various radium dial factories during WWI and beyond were daily and knowingly exposed to radium with no safety precautions put in place by their employers. Many died horrific early deaths, while others met slow, excruciating ends. Radium caught up with all of them no matter what. Their fight was not to be cured — an impossible wish given their levels of exposure — but to prevent such a fate from happening to others.

I closed the last page feeling some feelings…

1. This story is incredible and tragic, and I can’t believe I hadn’t heard it before (except via Terry Gross’s interview with the author, Kate Moore, in 2017). I'm so glad Moore took up their cause.

2. Corporations when only motivated by profit are terrifying and evil, and this is one of the most stunning examples I've read.

3. I keep picturing myself in their shoes, going through my tasks each day with radium attacking my bones, organs, jaw and skull and growing cancers on my extremities. I can’t fathom how they coped, and I feel so grateful for my comparative health.

4. These women were truly remarkable for the legal, medical and scientific battles they fought, and we are still benefiting even though many of us are unaware.

5. Justice is a dish best served promptly.

6. Let’s never let this kind of industrial travesty happen again.

7. Whatever you do, don’t Google “radium necrosis.”

"My Lovely Wife in the Psych Ward: A Memoir" by Mark Lukach

This book kept me breathless while reading and left me feeling full. I can’t recommend it enough to those looking to gain a greater understanding of mental illness.

It’s a memoir by Mark Lukach about his wife, Giulia, and the onset of her first psychotic break that came despite no family history of mental illness. Lukach chronicles a five-year period of Giulia’s on-and-off psychiatric hospitalizations and how they cope with life on the razor’s edge while raising their young son.

The book does just what the cover review says it will: tears your heart out and then lovingly stitches it back into place.

Having been through mental health issues of my own, the details ring true — the fear and exhaustion for caregiver and loved one, strain on relationships, guesswork of treatment, and the eventual realization there is no cure.

But for all the negatives, it has hard-won silver linings. You learn who your friends are. You find new depths of love in your most supportive relationships — kin by blood or choice. You come to appreciate the light times more for having journeyed through darkness. And you drink deeply from your cup of joy when the ground is level beneath your feet, before that next big climb.

It's worth your time to give this a read.
"All the Colors We Will See," by Patrice Gopo

I’m ending the holiday feeling grateful for the beautiful words of Patrice Gopo.

I can’t emphasize enough how powerful and deeply thoughtful this essay collection was and how enriched and broadened I feel for having read her poetic and fluid reflections on race, identity, inclusion/exclusion, family, place and culture, marriage and divorce, and faith and spirituality.

Definitely read it!