The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks Author:Rebecca Skloot Science journalist Skloot makes a remarkable debut with this multilayered story about faith, science, journalism, and grace. It is also a tale of medical wonders and medical arrogance, racism, poverty and the bond that grows, sometimes painfully, between two very different women—Skloot and Deborah Lacks—sharing an obsession to learn ... more »about Deborah's mother, Henrietta, and her magical, immortal cells. Henrietta Lacks was a 31-year-old black mother of five in Baltimore when she died of cervical cancer in 1951. Without her knowledge, doctors treating her at Johns Hopkins took tissue samples from her cervix for research. They spawned the first viable, indeed miraculously productive, cell line—known as HeLa. These cells have aided in medical discoveries from the polio vaccine to AIDS treatments. What Skloot so poignantly portrays is the devastating impact Henrietta's death and the eventual importance of her cells had on her husband and children. Skloot's portraits of Deborah, her father and brothers are so vibrant and immediate they recall Adrian Nicole LeBlanc's Random Family. Writing in plain, clear prose, Skloot avoids melodrama and makes no judgments. Letting people and events speak for themselves, 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.« less
As someone who has worked in labs and often heard about HeLa cells, I looked forward to learning more about their origins. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks started off as riveting storytelling about Henrietta Lacks, a poor African-American woman being treated at Johns Hopkins for cervical cancer in the 1950s. Without her knowledge, a biopsy of her tumor was used to create the first immortal human cell line, which was then used in myriad ways to advance scientific knowledge. Initially Rebecca Skloot was adroitly juggling three story lines—Henrietta's life story, the scientific breakthroughs, and approaching the scarred Lacks family—but the rhythm disappeared when she was left with primarily Henrietta's descendants. Skloot has invested considerable time and patience to ingratiate herself to the Lackses; perhaps that is why the story continues for several chapters after Henrietta's reach ends and the cells are almost always referred to as "Henrietta's cells." It's astonishing to see the level of miscommunication and disconnect between the scientists and the family. The Afterword is an interesting and more neutral look at the ethics of property rights on biological material.
Lyrel B. (lyrel) reviewed The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks on
Helpful Score: 12
Very well researched and explained. Though I have a science background, I think the topic is very accessible to non-science types. The book is about psychology, medicine, politics, ethics, and the general human condition all mashed together.
Nat S. reviewed The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks on
Helpful Score: 9
An excellent read. Explores the history of one of the most prolific human culture cell lines that I myself used as a graduate student! Even if you have no since background, the science is well explained without being broing or overwhelming.
Also explores history of routine mistreatment of African Americans by medical professionals in America and the lingering mistrust even today. It is also the story of family that lost their mother too soon and the unending trap that lack of education is
crackabook reviewed The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks on
Helpful Score: 8
This was a fascinating true story about the cancer cells of Henrietta Lacks taken, grown for research, all without her or her families knowledge. We learn about her and her family up until present day plus all of the science in between which brought us vaccines and insight into the human body not known before due too the culture of these cells living to this day. DO NOT miss this book, have no fear Rececca Skloot pens this book in such a way that no degree is needed to understand it and you are sure to be moved by the contents. A must read for all who walk on this earth.
This is a amazing true tale of a poor black woman in the '50's that found herself sick. She went to John Hopkins hospital and was examined, and they found a growth on her uterus like Henrietta told them about.
The doctor did what they could in treatment options of those days, and also took two samples of the cells on her uterus.
These cell began to grow in the petri dishes and cultures and the rest is history.
This book is rich in history and pain the Lacks' have gone through to get truth told about thier mother.
This book was very well researched but also personal and engaging. Not a dry history lesson for certain. I really liked this book and could not put it down.
I hope this book sells like hot cakes and gives the Lack family and the author some monitary gain for the future. My copy was the ARC, selling on eBAy
My first lab job involved learning cell culture. I've since worked with HeLa cells and gone through years of grad school without giving thought to the origins of HeLa. Sad to read this book and think how this could have happened to anyone. Well written, not as technical or science-laden as one might think. Author did an excellent job portraying the Lacks family with just the right amount of sympathy without painting researchers and doctors as "evil."
This book is a must for every human being. It is an important part of science and history. The book went back and forth from science to the fascinating life story of Henrietta Lacks and her offspring. I was never overwhelmed about the science and couldn't put it down. It raises important moral questions that still are ripe for discussion.
This book was a fascinating look at the life, death, and immortality of a young black woman named Henrietta Lacks. Diagnosed in 1951 with an aggressive cervical cancer, her biopsied cells were taken without her knowledge or consent and given to a researcher who was attempting to to grow human cells for scientific research. She died shortly after, but her cells replicated and became known as HeLa. They have been vital in creating the polio vaccine and studying cancer, among other things. However, her family was never told about Henrietta's contribution to science and the world was never told about the woman who faded to obscurity while her cells lived on. This book shares her story, the story of her family, and the scientific progress that has been made as a result of these cells.