The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot is a book I would recommend to anyone. This book tells the story of Henrietta Lacks and her cells. Do not let the idea of cells and science turn you off from reading this book because it is so much more than that.
Skloot tells the story of Henrietta Lacks from childhood to her death in 1951. She grew up very poor having to work long days on a tobacco farm. She married David Lacks in 1941 and had 5 children together. At the end of 1941, the Lacks’ left the tobacco farm and moved to Turners Station, now part of Dundalk, Baltimore County, Maryland.
In 1951, Henrietta was treated for cervical cancer at Johns Hopkins Hospital. During the treatment for her tumor, two samples of Henrietta’s cells were removed without her permission. In the medical world, these cells eventually became known as HeLa and were sold for profit.
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks details the use of HeLa cells and their use in medical research. The author presents the scientific element of the story in a way that anyone can understand. Skloot gives specifics about the use of HeLa cells but does not get too bogged down in the science of things.
On the other side, Skloot also informs the reader about Henrietta’s family. She illustrates how Henrietta’s family was unaware of the use of HeLa cells in medical research and the confusion about how her cells were taken without conesent.
The Immortal Life on Henrietta Lacks not only tells the story of a woman, her cells, and her family but it makes one think about ethical issues involving medical research and race.
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is available for checkout at the VC/UHV Library.
Review written by Amanda B.