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The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (edition 2010)

by Rebecca Skloot

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
6,179None656 (4.15)2 / 645
Member:horomnizon
Title:The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
Authors:Rebecca Skloot
Info:Crown (2010), Edition: 1 edition, Hardcover, 384 pages
Collections:Read but unowned
Rating:***
Tags:borrowed, cell culture, science, biology, Henrietta Lacks, ethics, race

Work details

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

2010 (68) 2011 (85) African American (92) African Americans (65) Bioethics (119) biography (392) biology (136) book club (72) cancer (265) cells (100) ebook (62) ethics (165) family (60) genetics (107) HeLa (72) Henrietta Lacks (60) history (238) Kindle (80) medical (54) medical ethics (178) medical research (73) medicine (325) non-fiction (880) race (92) racism (68) read (76) read in 2011 (58) research (65) science (584) to-read (167)
  1. 120
    The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman (kidzdoc)
  2. 50
    Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present by Harriet A. Washington (lives4laughs, fannyprice)
  3. 62
    Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach (VenusofUrbino)
    VenusofUrbino: If you like well-researched and well-written non-fiction like "Immortal Life" then you will also appreciate Mary Roach.
  4. 40
    The Warmth of Other Suns:The Epic Story of America's Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson (bunnygirl)
    bunnygirl: personal history and stories linked with the larger African American history. if you were wondering about Skloot's reference to the Lacks family being part of the Great Migration, this book explains exactly what it is and tells the stories of three families in a similar manner.… (more)
  5. 40
    A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines (krazy4katz)
    krazy4katz: Reading "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks," I was pained by the impoverished lives of people who still lived on plantations in the 1940s - lack of schooling, lack of health care, lack of any kind of decent housing etc. "A Lesson Before Dying" more directly addresses the life of people still living on plantations in the '40s. Even though I sort of knew this, it was an emotional shock to truly recognize that all the abuse and oppression did not end with the Civil War but was still there 80 years later.… (more)
  6. 30
    Body Hunters: How the Drug Industry Tests Its Products On the World's Poorest Patients by Sonia Shah (legxleg)
  7. 20
    The Plutonium Files: America's Secret Medical Experiments in the Cold War by Eileen Welsome (barbharris1)
  8. 31
    Better by Atul Gawande (Othemts)
  9. 20
    The Mapmaker's Wife: A True Tale of Love, Murder, and Survival in the Amazon by Robert Whitaker (sboyte)
    sboyte: Fascinating stories of the people behind great scientific discoveries.
  10. 21
    The Wandering Gene and the Indian Princess: Race, Religion, and DNA by Jeff Wheelwright (LeesyLou)
    LeesyLou: If you have an interest in the social and personal ethics and background of medical care, this adds to your understanding. Minority cultures and personal medical ethics are equally poorly understood by many practitioners.
  11. 10
    Life Itself: Exploring the Realm of the Living Cell by Boyce Rensberger (BookshelfMonstrosity)
    BookshelfMonstrosity: Cell cultures are being used to study diseases as well as cure them. Learn about the cell cultures called 'HeLa' in The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, and read about cell cultures' utility as a whole in Life Itself.
  12. 00
    The Juggler's Children: A Family History Gene by Gene by Carolyn Abraham (sboyte)
  13. 11
    Tissue and Cell Donation: An Essential Guide by Ruth M. Warwick (Limelite)
    Limelite: Scientific discussion of medical/ethical, and other considerations regarding patients' rights and the medical profession's responsibilities on the subject, as well as other pertinent procedures.
  14. 12
    The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson (macart3)
    macart3: Deals with bioethics and human experimentation without others' consent.
  15. 04
    The Dangerous Joy of Dr. Sex and Other True Stories by Pagan Kennedy (Othemts)
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English (435)  German (1)  Japanese (1)  Catalan (1)  Swedish (1)  All languages (439)
Showing 1-5 of 435 (next | show all)
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot, is about an African-American woman named Henrietta Lacks. The book explains the events of her death at the hands of cancer and how her cells grew, literally, to help develop medical vaccines, treatments, techniques, etc., that revolutionized the medical world. Not much was known about her until this book was published, making it one that can both open your eyes to the wrongs done by medical professionals in the twentieth-century and pull on your heartstrings. The quote that resonated with me the most was that of Henrietta’s daughter Deborah. It says, “I don’t want to be immortal if it means living forever, because then everybody else just dies and gets old in front of you while you stay the same, and that’s just sad.” This quote, though at the very end of the book, is essential to understanding the theme of the book. The theme is the question, “What is the point of life if it is limited?”
The people who would enjoy this the most would be those are interested in medical history, racial relations, or medical lawsuits. For example, the book chronicles the lawsuit of James Moore against his doctor David Golde because Golde took Moore’s cells without permission and made a profit off of them. This book is a story of the hatred and bitterness the Lacks family experienced because of their ignorance and lack of compensation for HeLa (HeLa is the name of Henrietta’s cell line). It describes the hardships and abuse experienced by some of Henrietta’s children in the wake of her death at the hands of other family members. For example, Deborah was sexually abused by her cousin Galen. Even so, it talks about the passion of the doctors who used HeLa to help others instead of just themselves and of Henrietta’s grandchildren and great-grandchildren’s passion to become educated because of their grandmother. Overall, my only dislike was that sometimes the medical history and explanations of the business involved with HeLa dragged on and on. Eventually it would become mundane. However, I enjoyed when the book described the contributions HeLa made to science, such as when the German virologist Harald zur Hausen made the connection that the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) caused cervical cancer in 1984. I also enjoyed Skloot’s foray into the Lacks’ family life, though some of it was extremely saddening.
I wouldn’t have picked this book up on a whim; rather, the reason I read this was for class. Therefore, I recommend this book only to people who enjoy these topics or someone who is looking for something to read for a class.
The lesson I learned from The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is that great moments in history are often because ordinary people are in the wrong place at the wrong time. However, doctors around the world and whoever has benefited from the advances HeLa has allowed (which are a majority of the world) would say Henrietta Lacks was in the right place in the right time. ( )
  Sam2016 | Apr 9, 2014 |
I LOVED this book. The author did 10 years of extensive research to produce. I picked this quote from Albert Einstein to help describe what I experienced reading this book.

"It would be possible to describe everything scientifically, but it would make no sense; it would be without meaning, as if you described a Beethoven symphony as a variation of wave pressure."
— Albert Einstein


Rebecca Skloot gave this book meaning. ( )
  FAR2MANYBOOKS | Apr 5, 2014 |
I LOVED this book. The author did 10 years of extensive research to produce. I picked this quote from Albert Einstein to help describe what I experienced reading this book.

"It would be possible to describe everything scientifically, but it would make no sense; it would be without meaning, as if you described a Beethoven symphony as a variation of wave pressure."
— Albert Einstein


Rebecca Skloot gave this book meaning. ( )
  FAR2MANYBOOKS | Apr 5, 2014 |
Some stories just need to be told, and they need to be told right. Skloot collected all material that has gathered itself over the years, and managed to write a fairly full account. We are not sure where her motivation comes from. It starts with curiosity, but it gathers speed and in the end she writes both for the sake of Henrietta Lacks' family, and the science. She does not seem to be important any more, she is only the voice. The story begins shortly before Henrietta's painful death, and she remains unaware of each and every detail, but her family is burdened and deserves to be told what was going on all those years. Their pride is hurt and their trust is diminished, and they hurt, too. The book does not attempt to solve ethic problems which will probably remain unsolved. What is right, and what is not, and who can decide? Who are the heros and who are the villains? The world is a complex place, especially when we need to decide on common good for all. ( )
  flydodofly | Apr 2, 2014 |
Really interesting science, sometimes harrowing to read. ( )
  ewillse | Mar 23, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 435 (next | show all)
Skloot narrates the science lucidly, tracks the racial politics of medicine thoughtfully and tells the Lacks family’s often painful history with grace. She also confronts the spookiness of the cells themselves, intrepidly crossing into the spiritual plane on which the family has come to understand their mother’s continued presence in the world. Science writing is often just about “the facts.” ­Skloot’s book, her first, is far deeper, braver and more wonderful.
 
I put down Rebecca Skloot’s first book, “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,” more than once. Ten times, probably. Once to poke the fire. Once to silence a pinging BlackBerry. And eight times to chase my wife and assorted visitors around the house, to tell them I was holding one of the most graceful and moving nonfiction books I’ve read in a very long time.
 
Writing with a novelist's artistry, a biologist's expertise, and the zeal of an investigative reporter, Skloot tells a truly astonishing story of racism and poverty, science and conscience, spirituality and family, all driven by a galvanizing inquiry into the sanctity of the body and the very nature of the life force.
added by sduff222 | editBooklist, Donna Seaman (Dec 1, 2009)
 
Henrietta Lacks died of cervical cancer in a “colored” hospital ward in Baltimore in 1951. She would have gone forever unnoticed by the outside world if not for the dime-sized slice of her tumor sent to a lab for research eight months earlier. ...
Skloot, a science writer, has been fascinated with Lacks since she first took a biology class at age 16. As she went on to earn a degree in the subject, she yearned to know more about the woman, anonymous for years, who was responsible for those ubiquitous cells....
 
Skloot tells a rich, resonant tale of modern science, the wonders it can perform and how easily it can exploit society's most vulnerable people.
added by Shortride | editPublishers Weekly
 

» Add other authors (12 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Rebecca Sklootprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Acedo, Sara R.Cover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Campbell, CassandraNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Grip, GöranTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Townsend, MandaPhotographersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Turpin, BahniNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
We must not see any person as an abstraction.
Instead, we must see in every person a universe with its own secrets,
with its own treasures, with its own sources of anguish,
and with some measure of triumph.

----Elie Wiesel
from The Nazi Doctors and the Nuremberg Code
Dedication
For my family:

My parents, Betsy and Floyd; their spouses, Terry and Beverly;
my brother and sister-in-law, Matt and Renee;
and my wonderful nephews, Nick and Justin.
They all did without me for far too long because of this book,
but never stopped believing in it, or me.

And in loving memory of my grandfather,
James Robert Lee (1912-2003),
who treasured books more than anyone I've known.
First words
On January 29, 1951, David Lacks sat behind the wheel of his old Buick, watching the rain fall.
Quotations
...But I always have thought it was strange, if our mother cells done so much for medicine, how come her family can't afford to see no doctors? Don't make no sense. People got rich off my mother without us even knowin about them takin her cells, now we don't get a dime. I used to get so mad about that to where it made me sick and I had to take pills. But I don't got it in me no more to fight. I just want to know who my mother was.
----Deborah Lacks
When I tell people the story of Henrietta Lacks and her cells, the first question is usually Wasn't it illegal for doctors to take Henrietta's cells without her knowledge? Don't doctors have to tell you when they use your cells in research? The answer is no--not in 1951, and not in 2009, when this book went to press.
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Wikipedia in English (5)

Book description
Non-fiction. This book is a memoir, a biography, a human interest story w/ racial, legal & moral issues. Covers the journey of the HeLa cells.
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Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. She was a poor Southern tobacco farmer, yet her cells--taken without her knowledge--became one of the most important tools in medicine. The first "immortal" human cells grown in culture, they are still alive today, though she has been dead for more than sixty years. HeLa cells were vital for developing the polio vaccine; uncovered secrets of cancer and viruses; helped lead to in vitro fertilization, cloning, and gene mapping; and have been bought and sold by the billions. Yet Henrietta Lacks is buried in an unmarked grave. Her family did not learn of her "immortality" until more than twenty years after her death, when scientists began using her husband and children in research without informed consent. The story of the Lacks family is 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 are made of--From publisher description.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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