SCL Picks: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

Just in time for Women’s History month, the Stone Center Library recommends:  The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

“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.

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.”

Excerpt from Random House/Crown Publishing Group

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3 responses to “SCL Picks: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

  1. Pingback: Women’s History Month Round-Up | The Stone Center Library

  2. Pingback: New @the SCL: family stories, personal journeys, and cultural migrations « The Stone Center Library

  3. Very good book! She weaves Henrietta’s family life as well as her medical history into a great story. Good read especially if you are interested in science and the history of race in clinical research!

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