Current ReadUP Selection

2017-2018 - The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks - Rebecca Skloot

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks book cover

About the Book

This New York Times bestseller tells a riveting story of the collision between ethics, race, and medicine; of scientific discovery and faith healing; and of a daughter consumed with questions about the mother she never knew.

Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. She was a poor black tobacco farmer whose cells—taken without her knowledge in 1951—became one of the most important tools in medicine, vital for developing the polio vaccine, cloning, gene mapping, in vitro fertilization, and more. Henrietta’s cells have been bought and sold by the billions, yet she remains virtually unknown, and her family can’t afford health insurance. Made into an HBO movie produced by Oprah Winfrey and Alan Ball, this New York Times bestseller takes readers on an extraordinary journey, from the “colored” ward of Johns Hopkins Hospital in the 1950s to stark white laboratories with freezers filled with HeLa cells, from Henrietta’s small, dying hometown of Clover, Virginia, to East Baltimore today, where her children and grandchildren live and struggle with the legacy of her cells. It’s a story 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’re made of.

Rebecca Skloot

About the Author

Though best-known for The Immortal Life, Rebecca Skloot has written more than 200 feature articles, personal essays, book reviews, and news stories for The New York Times Magazine, O, The Oprah Magazine, Discover, Columbia Journalism Review, Seed, New York Magazine, Slate, Popular Science, the Chicago Tribune, and other publications. Her work has been anthologized in several collections, including Best Food Writing and Best Creative Nonfiction. She served as co-editor of The Best American Science Writing 2011 and has worked as a correspondent for NPR’s Radiolab and PBS’s Nova ScienceNOW.

Rebecca Skloot has a BS in biological sciences and a MFA in creative nonfiction. She has taught creative writing and science journalism at the University of Memphis, the University of Pittsburgh, and New York University. She is the founder and president of the Henrietta Lacks Foundation (www.henriettalacksfoundation.org). Skloot is currently working on a new book about the human-animal bond. She lives in Chicago, and she remains in close contact with the Lacks family.

For more information on Rebecca Skloot, please visit rebeccaskloot.com

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