Blood Matters: From Inherited Illness to Designer Babies, How the World and I Found Ourselves in the Future of the Gene. Masha Gessen. Review: Blood Matters: A Journey Along the Genetic Frontier by Masha GessenHilary Rose finds hope and caution in a thoughtful survey of. Aged 37, a seemingly healthy Masha Gessen is advised to cut off her breasts and remove her ovaries. Living in the shadow of her mother’s.

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In 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: As she wrestled with a wrenchin. As she wrestled with a wrenching personal decision—what to do with such knowledge—Gessen explored masah 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. Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read. Want to Read saving…. Want to Read Currently Reading Read. Refresh and try again. Open Preview See a Problem? Thanks for telling us about the problem. Return to Book Page. Preview — Blood Matters by Masha Gessen.

Matyers she wrestled with a wrenchin In genetic testing revealed that Masha Gessen had a mutation that predisposed her to mafters and fessen cancer. Hardcoverpages. To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up. To ask other readers questions about Blood Mattersplease sign up. Lists with This Book. Sep 22, Mathew rated it really liked it.

From the synopsis you may think this is a book about how the author deals with being diagnosed with breast cancer, and not much more. However there is so much more to it. Clearly well researched this is an easily accessible book on genetics and it’s influence on human disease. A must read for anyone with an interest in genetics.

Aug 28, Alison rated it liked it. Jul 11, K. Lincoln rated it really liked it. Masha Gessen is a journalist of Ashkenazi jewish ancestry with a BRCA gene mutation that meant she watched her mother die of cancer and her statistical probability of getting ovarian or breast cancer was quite high.

All the way through, Gessen provides a singular, embedded viewpoint filtering what she learns through her how journey of deciding how to handle the news of her own BRCA mutation. Should she do preventive surgery? What did this mean for the rest of her family?

Bred in the genes

At time, Gessen writes things from a viewpoint that I didn’t agree with. Sometimes they were health related things not really connected to her main questions about genetics, like in her quick survey of the history of eugenics in the U. Very light smokers can have the pleasure without the risk of lung cancer. And sometimes she is waxes poetically eloquent, like here when she is talking about Dor Yeshorim’s testing of potential marriage mates: One might conclude that where a child is deprived of sight, hearing, speech, movement, understanding, and discernment– as children with Tay-Sachs, Canavan, and Niemann-Pick certainly are– God had declined to do His part.


Dor Yeshorim’s testing provides a peek to which couples will have these God-forsaken children. That is a journey worth taking with her through this book, finding out what she finds out, mulling over possibilities and consequences with her.

And with stem-cell debate and religion mixed up in genetics in the U. Sep 26, Laura Gilbert rated it liked it. A little disjointed though.

Blood Matters by Masha Gessen | Books | The Guardian

Starts as a memoir and cycled through history and the gewsen in genetic medicine. However, I struggled at times with how it all fit into the authors story. I understand her wanting to make it personal but it somehow took away from the rest of the great background she provided.

Just my gewsen of course. Jul 01, Lisa rated it it was amazing Shelves: To help her decide whether and how to act on this knowledge, Gessen researches the history of genetic disease and genetic testing, and visits many scientists, past and present patients, and their families. The book is precisely written and gives a thorough, rigorously thoughtful take on heredity and what genetic testing means for us now and in the future. Gessen ably balances her reporting with her personal experience, using each to inform the other.

She raises questions I had never thought of, but will probably have to deal with in my lifetime. She doesn’t always give answers, either; part of what makes the book so interesting is that it’s never clear that there are one-size-fits-all answers to the questions we have about genetic testing — making the pondering of the questions that much more important.

The book is divided into three sections: In the first, Gessen describes her family’s challenges with their inherited diseases, and inquires how these hereditary diseases get passed down in the first place.

Gessen is of Ashkenazi Jewish heritage, and maters group has been particularly afflicted with hereditary disease; this seems particularly poignant since the topic of genetic testing immediately brings up distasteful connotations of eugenicism and Nazi thinking. In this section Gessen gets more deeply into the cruel variety of hereditary diseases and how these diseases shape the lives mattefs those who have them.

She also shows how the advent of genetic testing has completely altered these lives in ways that were previously unimaginable.

Instead, she gesen a compelling case that we need to look at what we already know and what testing could help us know, and start our thinking from there. Mar 20, Sarah Sammis rated it really liked it Shelves: Blood Matters is a thin volume packed with information on recent advances in the science of genetics told in a very personal manner.

Masha Gessen was inspired to write Blood Matters after learning she had a mutation that increases her risk of breast and ovarian cancers.

In the first chapter when Gessen is recounting her mother’s death and her own fears about breast cancer I was reluctant to keep reading. I was afraid the book would be nothing more than a gnashing of teeth and self pity. Fortunate Blood Matters is a thin volume packed with information on recent advances in the science of genetics told in a very personal manner. Fortunately after introducing the reason behind the book Gessen gets on to the science and her own process of learning about it.

Blood Matters is broken into three parts: In the first part, Gessen places herself in the context of genetic science both as a potential cancer sufferer and as an Ashkenazi Jew.

In the second part she looks at how genetic testing is being used now mash mainstream healthcare and by certain communities. In the final part she wraps up with where the science of genetics is going and who is driving these advances. gesaen


As this is a memoir and a layman’s introduction to genetics and the human genome, I am reminded fondly of Laura Gould’s book on calico genetics, Cats Are Not Peas. I actually ended up enjoying the book so much that I will probably get myself a copy to keep as reference material, right next to my copy of Cats Are Not Peas. Nov 27, Kirk rated it liked it Shelves: A journalist with a family history of breast and ovarian cancer must first decide whether to get testing, and then, discovering she is positive, decide what action to take.

Along the way she covers a lot of ground about what we can learn from our genes, the value of screening, whether patients are sophisticated enough to handle this information and the distress and anxiety of uncertainty. Written ten years ago, genetic testing was much less mainstream and discussed as a topic this was prior to ‘ A journalist with a family history of breast and ovarian cancer must first decide whether to get testing, and then, discovering she is positive, decide what action to take.

Written ten years ago, genetic testing was much less mainstream and discussed as a topic this was prior to ‘the Angelia effect’. However many of the lessons hold true today. This book was more comprehensive and held up better with time than I expected.

This is more than a simple testimony from a patient suffering from a cancer and, her odyssey to better grasp her condition through the lense of medical science.

Biology and history are here intertwined with ethics so as to question, bluntly and without passion the impact of our understanding of genetics so far. Without being sordid nor miserabilist she tells her doubt and fears should she accept an oophorectomy?

It might be too broad and confusing at times but, straightforward, it’s always relevant. Mar 15, Judy Gehman rated it really liked it. I found this book fascinating and well written. Dec 11, Danielle rated geszen really liked it.

The author examines ever advancing world of genetics. She focuses on her own struggle to decide whether to have her breasts and ovaries removed after she hessen positive for a gene that indicates she is likely to develop either breast or ovarian cancer. She also delves into many other areas related to genetic testing and medicine including why genes for some diseases tend to be found more frequently in some groups such as the Amish or Ashkenazi Jews.

I found it to be a very interesting book that The author examines ever advancing world of genetics. I found it to be a very interesting book that raises bloof lot of questions about the implications of genetic testing.

Mar 07, L rated it really liked it Shelves: I really enjoyed this book because the author tells an compelling story about her own journey with genetic testing but there is a lot of science and interviews to back up her opinions. It is easy to read because it feels like you’re working with a friendc to work through some mash issues, but a lot of the scientific evidenceis right there and researched for you.

You can get your science, educational and personal journey fix all in one book. Apr 28, Suzanne rated it liked it Shelves: Essentially there are only 2 books written by women who’ve tested positive for BRCA gene mutation: Blood Matters and Pretty is What Changes. Both are required reading, as they are completely different takes on the subject matter. Sep 17, Cindy rated it really liked it.