Someone had mentioned that The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks was an amazing non-fiction work. I had seen it on Amazon, but I didn’t think I’d be that interested in reading it. Honestly, I’m not one for the more scientific books.
Enter Rebecca Skloot, a young woman who has studied both biology and creative writing. She came across the HeLa cell research in a community college class where the professor actually brought up the name of the woman the cells were from: Henrietta Lacks. For the next ten years, Skloot works tirelessly to understand the woman behind the cells that successfully grew and are now found all over the world. Her search lead her to Clover, Virginia and Baltimore, Maryland, where Henrietta lived with her family, learned about her cervical cancer at Johns Hopkins, and later passed.
The story in itself is fascinating. Skloot tries to meet Henrietta’s children, who were kept in the dark that their mother’s cells were being used for research for a good twenty years. Most of the Lacks family couldn’t afford healthcare, yet their mother’s cells made an incredible amount of money and lead to discoveries for vaccinations. It becomes clear why the Lacks family has no interest speaking to Skloot, another white journalist–people always came to talk to them, but they never wanted to know who Henrietta was.
Not only is the story riveting, but Skloot narrates the events with great detail and clarity. She shows the story within this scientific phenomenon. She explains the scientific impact in simple terms so we all can understand.
Skloot spent 10 years working on this book. She maxed out credit cards in order to visit the Lacks and learn more about their story. Her hard work paid off and this is definitely worth a read!