Lab Girl by Hope Jahren

Over the years, I have had a passing interest on women’s issues in America. This obviously hit me harder when I saw my wife being mistreated at work because of her gender. How do I know she was treated unfairly? Because later that day I approached the same situation she did and I did not receive any pushback, even though I was lower on the organizational chart and had less experience than her. Now I have two daughters. They are both young and have not experienced any overt sexism, but I know those days are just around the corner. I hate the idea that they will be treated differently just because they are female.

I picked this book up at my school’s library as they were giving away free copies as part of a reading program. I was interested in hearing about Hope Jahren in the laboratory world; a world that is infamously known to be lacking in diversity.

What did I gain from this book? Not much. Some of the stories were interesting, many were not. Relationships seemed to be the only running theme in the book. She grew up in an emotionally detached home and then for years the only other person you hear about is her lab partner Bill. Her relationship with Bill is frustrating. She adores Bill and treats him like a brother, but she treats Bill like her middle school brother in loving but degrading way. Additionally, undergraduate students are heard from rarely and they are usually problems awaiting to happen. She and Bill have this fixed mindset about students. She only values students who come prepacakaged with no egos.

I think this is a classic case where I decided to put unfair expectations on a book. That was unfair. But I can’t escape the notion that I did not find the book to be great. It is interesting at points with long stretches of blah.