Some of My Favorite Books

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

Wow! I hadn't heard of this book when I picked it up at the Phoenix Library last week but I'm glad I brought it home. I almost didn't because it wouldn't check out at the self-service area where you have to check out books. I took it to the counter and a librarian checked it out for me. I'm so glad. This is probably the best nonfiction book I've read in years. 

The cover of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot reads:

"Doctors took her cells without asking. Those cells never died. They launched a medical revolution and a multimillion-dollar industry. More than twenty years later, her children found out. Their lives would never be the same."

This book tells the story of a poor Black woman in the 1950s who had cervical cancer, went to Johns Hopkins for treatment, and died at the age of 30. She left behind five children and the HeLa cell. At the time, cells were taken from all patients and Henrietta's cancer cells lived and multiplied unlike any other cells before. The name HeLa was given to the cells by the doctors and scientists taking the first two letters from the patients' names. In this case, He from Henrietta and La from Lacks to make HeLa.

The story of Henrietta's children and her cells are intertwined, making for a fascinating tale. The author spent 10 years researching and writing the story after hearing the name Henrietta Lacks in a science class in high school and being unable to learn anything about the woman whose cells have contributed so much to the science and medical worlds.

You've benefited from HeLa cells. We all have. Her cells have provided cells for scientific researchers to test drugs, vaccines, and much more. Read it. I think you'll like it.

Book Read:  The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
Author:  Rebecca Skloot
ISBN:  978-1-40000-5217-2

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