The Stuff of Life

Book Club Kit - 2013
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Selected for The Globe 100 Books in 2013.

With the 2013 CBC Massey Lectures, bestselling author Lawrence Hill offers a provocative examination of the scientific and social history of blood, and on the ways that it unites and divides us today.

Blood runs red through every person's arteries and fulfills the same functions in every human being. The study of blood has advanced our understanding of biology and improved medical treatments, but its cultural and social representations have divided us perennially. Blood pulses through religion, literature, and the visual arts. Every time it pools or spills, we learn a little more about what brings human beings together and what pulls us apart. For centuries, perceptions of difference in our blood have separated people on the basis of gender, race, class, and nation. Ideas about blood purity have spawned rules about who gets to belong to a family or cultural group, who enjoys the rights of citizenship and nationality, what privileges one can expect to be granted or denied, whether you inherit poverty or the right to rule over the masses, what constitutes fair play in sport, and what defines a person's identity.

Blood: The Stuff of Life is a bold meditation on blood as an historical and contemporary marker of identity, belonging, gender, race, class, citizenship, athletic superiority, and nationhood.

Publisher: Toronto : House of Anansi Press, 2013
ISBN: 9781770893221
Branch Call Number: BOOK CLUB SETS - H
Characteristics: 10 copies + 1 research guide


From the critics

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Aug 04, 2015

i never understood the effect of blood. Ignorant enough to think that its meer purpose was survival of the body. My mind is open and has been filled with the knowledge that blood..blood has the power to destroy civilization, to build an idea, to connect us all. There is nothing in this world that connects every human the way blood does. A white man bleeds just as a black man does. I understand now that blood is not just a thing but an idea.

Jun 26, 2014

a good science book . It isn't fiction .

ser_library May 08, 2014

an interesting quick read with personal history interspersed within the science and sociology. repetitive when read all at once.

ksoles Feb 01, 2014

It courses through the body of every human. It defines gender, ethnicity and family identity. In clichés, you can sweat it but you can't get it from a stone. Blood certainly offers fascinating possibilities for a book but, unfortunately, Lawrence Hill's "Blood: The Stuff of Life" becomes overwhelmed by these possibilities.

Attempting to demonstrate the prevalence of his subject, Hill only achieves a superficial and repetitive examination of it. His obviously copious research too often reads like a top ten list of blood-related facts that lack both analysis and substance. He certainly displays his passion about the double standards that bestow respectability on "blood sports" (hockey, boxing) and he spotlights important topics such as the misuse of blood in justifying racial discrimination. However, he constantly turns his moral conclusions into philosophical meditations, weakening his points.

The book's strength lies in its autobiographical threads, which bring it to a more human scale. The author humbly recounts his own struggle with diabetes and piercingly admits to growing up in the shadow of a famous sibling and father. But, though his perfunctory approach plays well orally on radio, it falters when used in an intellectual argument.

AnarchyintheLC Jan 06, 2014

This was a fantastic read. Hill looks at blood as a metaphor (purity vs contamination), and as a way of measuring belonging (racism, "us" versus "them") and takes lots of interesting pit-stops along the way. A mix of biology, medicine, politics and history.

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