Books, Reading

A brief return to an old love

I’ve had no book budget this year, so when I learn of a book I think will interest me I add it to my request list at our library. I’ve been waiting months for some books, but suddenly I have five to read in the next two weeks—and I’m not a fast reader.

I read about this book before its release, but then in the midst of trying to get my own book ready to publish, I forgot about it. Now, I’m halfway through reading The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot and I’m fascinated. Not counting memoir, this is the first non-writing non-fiction book I’ve read in two years. I missed it. I’m glad I broke my fast with this book.

From the author’s website:

Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. She was a poor black tobacco farmer whose cells—taken without her knowledge in 1951—became one of the most important tools in medicine, vital for developing the polio vaccine, cloning, gene mapping, in vitro fertilization, and more. Henrietta’s cells have been bought and sold by the billions, yet she remains virtually unknown, and her family can’t afford health insurance.

Soon to be made into an HBO movie by Oprah Winfrey and Alan Ball, this New York Times bestseller takes readers on an extraordinary journey, from the “colored” ward of Johns Hopkins Hospital in the 1950s to stark white laboratories with freezers filled with HeLa cells, from Henrietta’s small, dying hometown of Clover, Virginia, to East Baltimore today, where her children and grandchildren live and struggle with the legacy of her cells. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks tells a riveting story of the collision between ethics, race, and medicine; of scientific discovery and faith healing; and of a daughter consumed with questions about the mother she never knew. It’s a story inextricably connected to the dark history of experimentation on African Americans, the birth of bioethics, and the legal battles over whether we control the stuff we’re made of.

Have you read this book? If so, what did you think of it?

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