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Book Ends - The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

Book Ends - The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks In-Person

Join us for a discussion of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (2010, Nonfiction) by Rebecca Skloot (369 pgs, 4.11/5 Goodreads).

Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. She was a poor Southern tobacco farmer who worked the same land as her slave ancestors, yet her cells—taken without her knowledge—became one of the most important tools in medicine: The first “immortal” human cells grown in culture, which 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, viruses, and the atom bomb’s effects; helped lead to important advances like in vitro fertilization, cloning, and gene mapping; and have been bought and sold by the billions. 
Yet Henrietta Lacks remains virtually unknown, buried in an unmarked grave.
Henrietta’s family did not learn of her “immortality” until more than twenty years after her death, when scientists investigating HeLa began using her husband and children in research without informed consent. And though the cells had launched a multimillion-dollar industry that sells human biological materials, her family never saw any of the profits. As Rebecca Skloot so brilliantly shows, the story of the Lacks family—past and present—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. 

Over the decade it took to uncover this story, Rebecca became enmeshed in the lives of the Lacks family—especially Henrietta’s daughter Deborah. Deborah was consumed with questions: Had scientists cloned her mother? Had they killed her to harvest her cells? And if her mother was so important to medicine, why couldn’t her children afford health insurance? 

Copies of the book will be distributed at the April meeting and, afterward, are available by visiting the front desk at either Centerville or Woodbourne Library. The title is available in Regular Print, Large Print, CD-Book, eBook, and eAudio. No registration is necessary, but participants are encouraged to read the book prior to attending the discussion. 

Thursday, May 16, 2024
6:30 PM - 7:30 PM
Time Zone:
Eastern Time - US & Canada (change)
Centerville Conference Room
Centerville Library
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