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The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by…
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The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (edition 2011)

by Rebecca Skloot

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
6,614458571 (4.15)2 / 675
Member:Atomicmutant
Title:The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
Authors:Rebecca Skloot
Info:Broadway (2011), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 400 pages
Collections:Your library, read in 2013, Kindle
Rating:****
Tags:science, medicine, non-fiction, read '13

Work details

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

  1. 120
    The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman (kidzdoc)
  2. 50
    Medical Apartheid by Harriet A. Washington (lives4laughs, fannyprice)
  3. 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)
  4. 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.
  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 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.
  8. 31
    Better by Atul Gawande (Othemts)
  9. 20
    The Plutonium Files: America's Secret Medical Experiments in the Cold War by Eileen Welsome (barbharris1)
  10. 10
    The Mockingbird Next Door: Life with Harper Lee by Marja Mills (akblanchard)
    akblanchard: In both books, journalists get personally involved with their subjects.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. 00
    The Juggler's Children: A Family History Gene by Gene by Carolyn Abraham (sboyte)
  14. 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.
  15. 12
    The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson (macart3)
    macart3: Deals with bioethics and human experimentation without others' consent.
  16. 04
    The Dangerous Joy of Dr. Sex and Other True Stories by Pagan Kennedy (Othemts)
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English (453)  German (1)  Japanese (1)  Swedish (1)  Piratical (1)  Catalan (1)  All languages (458)
Showing 1-5 of 453 (next | show all)
Discussion of this book at the Willett Free Library on Saturday, Aug. 2, at 10am.

There's a lot to talk about! ( )
  jpe9 | Nov 5, 2014 |
This is an amazing story.

The science part is pretty fascinating - how Henrietta's unusual cells have enabled all sorts of incredible advances in medicine. But what is even more fascinating is Skloot's personal experience of the Lacks family, and how they first resisted and then welcomed her research, and how she was able to finally help them understand what this mess is all about.

The most amazing aspect of the book is how sensitively Skloot portrays the Lacks family. The Lackses have always lived in a culture that is entirely different from the culture of the over-educated white people who know about HeLa cells, and that cultural divide plays a huge role in this book. The Lackses never had the opportunity to gain the education they needed to understand HeLa cells, and it is sad reading how the doctors and journalists who talked to them over the years never bothered to explain anything to them. A journalist less sensitive than Skloot might have been dismissive of the Lackses as ignorant or even stupid, not to mention superstitious or even downright crazy for their religious beliefs (not to mention Deborah's murderous brother). However, Skloot paints and incredibly sensitive picture of these people and their lives, and lets them have their own voices.

Ultimately, this is a book about race relations, and although Skloot never overtly addresses issues of racism, she does an amazing job of showing what a different world black Americans live in, how they have been mistreated by even well-intentioned white people, and how just a little bit of communication and sensitivity can go a long way. ( )
  Gwendydd | Nov 2, 2014 |
Great audiobook. ( )
  vnesting | Oct 26, 2014 |
Simply an amazing book. ( )
  kybunnies | Oct 19, 2014 |
A friend recommended this book to me, and I'm glad I took her advice. An interesting story about the history of HeLa, from a fresh perspective. My husband has worked in labs with HeLa cells (at Johns Hopkins even!), yet knew nothing about the story behind them - I was happy to share this book with him! Thoroughly engaging, reads like a novel. Easy to get sucked in.

I do agree with the few other reviewers concerning Skloot's narrative regarding her quest to research the Lacks family... at times I felt the book was more about her difficulties interacting with the family, rather than Henrietta's history (although I understand that little is really known about Henrietta, so that accounts for part of it). I felt like it was the right mixture of the science behind HeLa vs. background history of the Lacks family - I appreciate that the book was NOT all about the science of the HeLa cells, as that's not the point here. ( )
  skrouhan | Oct 18, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 453 (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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No descriptions found.

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)

» see all 6 descriptions

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