The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

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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, they are still alive today, though she has been dead for more than sixty years. If you could pile all HeLa cells ever grown onto a scale, they d weigh more than 50 million metric tons as much as a hundred Empire State Buildings. 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.
Now Rebecca Skloot takes us on an extraordinary journey, from the colored ward of Johns Hopkins Hospital in the 1950s to stark white laboratories with freezers full of HeLa cells; from Henrietta s small, dying hometown of Clover, Virginia a land of wooden slave quarters, faith healings, and voodoo to East Baltimore today, where her children and grandchildren live and struggle with the legacy of her cells.
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, who was devastated to learn about her mother s cells. She was consumed with questions: Had scientists cloned her mother? Did it hurt her when researchers infected her cells with viruses and shot them into space? What happened to her sister, Elsie, who died in a mental institution at the age of fifteen? And if her mother was so important to medicine, why couldn t her children afford health insurance?
Intimate in feeling, astonishing in scope, and impossible to put down, "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks" captures the beauty and drama of scientific discovery, as well as its human consequences."
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Product details

  • CD-Audio
  • 131 x 153 x 30mm | 286g
  • Random House Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • Unabridged
  • Unabridged
  • 0307712508
  • 9780307712509
  • 712,511

Review quote

Selected for More than Sixty Best of the Year Lists Including:
" "
"New York Times" Notable Book
"Entertainment Weekly" #1 Nonfiction Book of the Year
"New Yorker "Reviewers' Favorite
American Library Association Notable Book""
"People "Top Ten Book of the Year
"Washington Post Book World" Top Ten Book of the Year Best Book of the Year
"USA Today "Ten Books We Loved Reading
"O, The Oprah Magazine" Top Ten Book of the Year
National Public Radio Best of the Bestsellers
"Boston Globe" Best Nonfiction Book of the Year
"Financial Times" Nonfiction Favorite
"Los Angeles Times "Critics' Pick
"Bloomberg" Top Nonfiction
"New York "magazine Top Ten Book of the Year Favorite Book of the Year Top Ten Book of the Year
"Discover" magazine 2010 Must-Read
"Publishers Weekly" Best Book of the Year
"Library Journal" Top Ten Book of the Year
"Kirkus Reviews" Best Nonfiction Book of the Year
"U.S. News & World Report" Top Debate-Worthy Book
"Booklist" Top of the List--Best Nonfiction Book "I could not put the book down . . . The story of modern medicine and bioethics--and, indeed, race relations--is refracted beautifully, and movingly."
--"Entertainment Weekly"
"Science writing is often just about 'the facts.' Skloot's book, her first, is far deeper, braver, and more wonderful." "--New York Times Book Review """The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks" is a triumph of science of the best nonfiction books I have ever read."
"""A deftly crafted investigation of a social wrong committed by the medical establishment, as well as the scientific and medical miracles to which it led."
"--Washington Post
"""Riveting...a tour-de-force debut." "--Chicago Sun-Times
"A real-life detective story, "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks" probes deeply into racial and ethical issues in medicine . . . The emo
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About Rebecca Skloot

Rebecca Sklootis an award-winning science writer whose work has appeared in"The New York Times Magazine; O, The Oprah Magazine; Discover;"and many others. She is coeditor of"The Best American Science Writing 2011"and has worked as a correspondent for NPR s"Radiolab"and PBS s Nova"ScienceNOW." She was namedone of five surprising leaders of 2010 by the"Washington Post." Skloot's debut book, "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, " took more than a decade toresearch and write, and instantly became a"New York Times"bestseller. It was chosen as a best book of 2010 by more than sixty media outlets, including"Entertainment Weekly," "People, and the New York Times.""It"is being translated into more than twenty-five languages, adapted into a young reader edition, and being made into an HBO film produced by Oprah Winfrey and Alan Ball.Skloot is the founder and president of The Henrietta Lacks Foundation. She has a B.S. in biological sciences and anMFAin creative nonfiction. She has taught creative writing and science journalism at the University of Memphis, the University of Pittsburgh, and New York University. She lives in Chicago.For more information, visit her website at, where you ll find links to follow her on Twitter and Facebook. "From the Hardcover edition.""
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Rating details

601,386 ratings
4.07 out of 5 stars
5 41% (244,803)
4 36% (215,117)
3 16% (96,383)
2 4% (26,591)
1 3% (18,492)
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