The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

Here’s a book to put on your summer reading list: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. Henrietta, known to scientists as HeLa, was an African American woman whose tumor samples were taken without her knowledge and used as the first immortal human cells. Though the cells helped make the polio vaccine and chemo possible, they have not always been used responsibly. Her own family, many of whom could not even afford health insurance, did not learn of her contribution to medicine until more than 20 years after her death. This was one of the most celebrated books this year, receiving many starred reviews and named by more than sixty critics as one of the best books of 2010. This is an interesting look at bioethics, but also the story of the Lack family. Here are some reviews:

“For a decade, Skloot doggedly but compassionately gathered the threads of these stories, slowly gaining the trust of the family while helping them learn the truth about Henrietta, and with their aid she tells a rich and haunting story that asks the questions, Who owns our bodies? And who carries our memories?” –Tom Nissley, Amazon Best Books of the Month

“One of the most graceful and moving nonfiction books I’ve read in a very long time…’The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks’…floods over you like a narrative dam break, as if someone had managed to distill and purify the more addictive qualities of ‘Erin Brockovich,’ ‘Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil’ and ‘The Andromeda Strain.’…it feels like the book Ms. Skloot was born to write. It signals the arrival of a raw but quite real talent.”—Dwight Garner, The New York Times

“Skloot’s vivid account begins with the life of Henrietta Lacks, who comes fully alive on the page…’Immortal Life’ reads like a novel.”–Eric Roston, The Washington Post


This book is now available in paperback and on Kindle and a Young Readers Edition will be published in January 2012. We have the hardcover edition available in the library.

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