#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • “The story of modern medicine and bioethics—and, indeed, race relations—is refracted beautifully, and movingly.”—Entertainment Weekly
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NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY The New York Times Book Review • Entertainment Weekly • O: The Oprah Magazine • NPR • Financial Times • New York • Independent (U.K.) • Times (U.K.) • Publishers Weekly • Library Journal • Kirkus Reviews • Booklist • Globe and Mail
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, which are still alive today, though she has been dead for more than sixty years. 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.
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. Deborah was consumed with questions: Had scientists cloned her mother? Had they killed her to harvest her cells? 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.
Poverty and prejudice are the watchwords of this astonishing story of a Black woman’s cancer cells and their everlasting journey into medical history.55
Enlightening, fascinating, riveting. Thank you for telling this story this time. One of the best “the more you know” book I’ve read thus far. It really showcase why minorities/AA/Black and Brown People continue to distrust the healthcare system, it has never really been fair to us55
This is a fascinating read that intertwines the science and history of HeLa with the very real and often tragic lives of Henrietta Lacks and her family.45
Deeply moving story55
Excellent story about the advancement of medicine mixed with moral dilemma.55
Very interesting but ultimately depressing .35
This book is excellent,we were forced to read it for our 10th grade book but once I began reading just the introduction,I rushed through all of the chapters in three nights!!?!55
Great book. So many ethics and science55
One of the most boring books I’ve ever read15
I read it twice. Once for my women’s health class and the other for my bioethical issues in health ed class. Both times I found it equally as interesting. It’s not just about science. Its about the actual person behind the science.55