Book Review

My most recently completed book was The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. I remember long ago reading a review in Entertainment Weekly that raved about it so on a whim I added it to my Amazon Wish List. Christine bought it for me shortly thereafter so it has long been a decoration on my bookshelf. Rather than download a newer book on the neglected Kindle, I'm sure glad I chose to read this one. It is about a woman whose cells were taken without her consent in the 1950s. Her cells were the first to successfully multiply in a scientific setting and became both immortal and insanely successful. Those cells, named HeLa, are the most widely cells used in scientific and medical research to this day, around the world.
Henrietta was no ordinary woman, much like her extraordinary cells. This book delved deep into her life as an impoverished black woman in the south. She was a tobacco farmer who married her cousin and had several children before succumbing at a young age to a very severe case of cervical cancer, which led to the biopsy and HeLa. The devastating part of this book was learning that despite the tremendous value her cells have, her children and their children continued living in poverty, without proper health care or coverage. While so many others profited from HeLa, her family didn't even find out until much later that her cells were even being used! Their ignorance - thanks to crippling poverty and no real education - kept them wondering if their mother was out there being cloned into monsters. Absolutely devastating.
This book was engrossing. I could not put it down. My emotions were all over the place. I was shocked that this incredible story was not taught in schools. Why must American history be so utterly male and white washed? How the hell does the USA live with itself when it has been and continues to be so cruel and downright unfair to people of color? The way Skloot wrote about the Lackses really made those very real characters come right to life. I laughed, I learned, I cried. I was shocked. I was educated. Honestly, this book was tremendous. I highly recommend a read.

1 comment:

Christine said...

hooray! so glad you liked that book! It's become a must-read for scientists, for sure!