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The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

Readers Recommend

Posted 1.17.12

“My favorite book of 2011 was ‘The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks’ by Rebecca Skloot (Crown, 2010). I read the book in three days during a trip to Mexico over the summer, and I embodied the ‘could-not-put-it-down’ cliché. I brought the book with me to meals and read it while eating. I sat in a room by myself for hours with this book, ignoring the beach, the sun, and all human contact. Skloot tells the story of Henrietta Lacks, a black woman whose cancerous cells were taken from her without her knowledge in the 1950s. After her death, Lacks’s cells strangely multiplied indefinitely, becoming ‘immortal,’ and were subsequently used in groundbreaking scientific research around the world. Skloot interweaves Lacks's history with encounters with Lacks's surviving family members, science writing, explorations of ethics and racism, and Skloot's own personal experiences as a journalist trying to enter into the lives of a troubled and wary family. I was stunned both by the story itself and Skloot's expert and seamless craft; I felt personally invested in following Skloot on her obsessive and passionate journey toward discovering the truth about a woman whose story challenges us to think deeply about the ethical questions raised by science.”

—Hila Ratzabi from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

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