Book Review: Blood: The Stuff of Life

May's genere for book club is non fiction. How convenient since I just picked up a book on blood from the library. I've started to donate plasma regularly again (or at least attempting too, I got turned down for low iron last month) so blood is fascinating to me at the moment, and I thought this book would satisfy my interest.

May 2015: Nonfiction

Blood: The Stuff of Life
By Lawrence Hill
2013
384 pages

I really wanted a book that could describe how blood was viewed or important to cultures and history. Instead I got this, the published version of Hill's CBC Massey Lectures on CBC Radio. Lawrence Hill is the author of the famous book The Book of Negroes, which had a CBC mini series so I guess he's well like by those CBC VIPs. Regardless, I was interested in reading radio lectures (yes, still not sure how that worked), especially if I could learn about blood in an up to date, Canadian context.

The first two parts were interesting enough. Hill covered the nature/functions of blood, historic practices, menstruation, blood typing, human sacrifice, honour killings, stem cells, tainted blood, blood donation, and cheating in sports. So far so good, so far pretty interesting. Long chapters, but this was the content I was interested in. Then the book went downhill for me. The last three chapters tie blood to race and religion. To me that's more genetics and cultural upbringing, but what do I know. Topics included race (heavy on Black, with some Aboriginal tie-ins), adoption, citizenship, witches (?), boxing, crime scene investigation, genocide and more race, skin colour, identity repeat etc. The concepts were interesting enough, but I wanted blood, as in cells, not blood as in racial identity.

The last 2/3s of the book was generally repetitive, if not slightly long winded, as it kept coming down to black vs white skin colour. Don't get me wrong, Hill is a great writer, accessible, poetical, but I was just looking for something different I guess. I'll fondly remember reading the first two chapters, and forget that I skimmed through the rest. In the end it's my fault - the subject heading for this books is Blood -- Social Aspects and clearly I was more interested in the science, biology, history, gruesome/gory bits. I'd still recommend this book though, especially if you're interested in how "blood" has been tied to racial identity.

I guess I should just go back to learning about blood by reading Game of Thrones...

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