Have you guys read The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks yet? Since it came out in 2010 I figure you’ve had enough time to get started on it before I gave you my 2 cents. Weirdly enough, I’ve been meaning to write this post for months but for some reason haven’t managed to make time for my little book report. Until today!
This nonfiction book is centered around Henrietta Lacks, a poor, illiterate woman who died from cervical cancer in 1951. Before she died a sample of her cells was taken and used for research without her consent. These cells possessed a unique ability to multiply, and according to the book cover “They launched a medical revolution and a multimillion-dollar industry. More than twenty years later, her children found out.”
Want to know what hooked me on this one? The prologue. Here we learn that the author, Rebecca Skloot, first heard of Henrietta Lacks when she was sixteen and sitting in a community college biology class. I am fascinated by the fact that Henrietta’s story stuck with her as she worked on her biology degree in college, and even as she moved through her graduate writing program. She developed a strong desire to tell Henrietta’s story, and it was no easy task. Earning the trust of a family that had learned to distrust anyone remotely connected to this story took 10 years.
The satisfaction I got from reading this book went farther than giving a voice to the woman who gave so much to science. The sheer determination of this author to unearth this story and all that it entails.. Was a second theme that I couldn’t help but cheer for. It is incredibly rewarding.
I think this book would appeal to anyone who likes to read nonfiction, is curious about biology or the history of cellular research, is interested in civil rights issues or human rights issues, or who is mildly curious about Rebecca Skloot’s relentless pursuit of the truth.
Oh, and I have a copy, if you want to borrow it.