Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Book Club: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

Another successful book club gathering!
 I was skeptical about this months's book club choice. I had never heard of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. When introduced to the book, I was assured it was a New York Times Bestseller. I was assured a friend highly recommended it. And then I was assured it was an interesting book about science and cells.

"Science? ...Cells?" my inner monologue chimed. Science was my sworn enemy throughout my school years. Why as a grown up, who takes great pride in having choice about the pages I turn, would I entertain reading something that sounded more like a text book?

My head littered with unfounded judgement, I couldn't bring myself to buy the book. Soon reminder e-mails popped up in my inbox about our meeting.  Staring at my calendar, I realized I had one remaining week until our date for juicy discussion, and gorging myself on wine and scrumptious vegetarian treats. My judgement was quickly pushed aside, as my stomach realized it may miss out on such a gluttonous occasion. So I finally scrambled to the nearest bookstore. A few days later, I began digesting the 328 page narrative. And as I turned the last page, thirty minutes before our meeting (in true procrastinator fashion), I found the corners of my mouth turning up.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is a book about cells and science. It is also a book about Henrietta Lacks and her family's journey of grappling with her death, as well as her cell's enormous contribution to the medical world. It's a book about ethics, scientists, the role of the media, law, and research for monetary gain. It's a book about understanding our rights concerning cell research and informed consent.

Author, Rebecca Skloot's ten year journey to produce a narrative with layers of information weaved through each chapter is extraordinary. Skloot illustrates that the production of something great takes time, discipline, and a team of supporters ready to roll up their sleeves with feedback. 

View the video below to learn more about Rebecca Skloot and The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. (The video visually scrambles a bit at times. So if you cannot see it, no worries! The audio is what's important!)

A big thanks to Emma, Kristen, Jason, and Julie for putting together a wonderful evening filled with laughter, "couchlates", and thought provoking questions.

Click here and here for other books our book club recommends.

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