Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

By Rebecca Skloot

Acclaimed author Skloot brilliantly weaves together the story of Henrietta Lacks--a woman whose cells have been unwittingly used for scientific research since the 1950s--with the birth of bioethics, and the dark history of experimentation on African Americans.

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Book Information

Publisher: Crown Publishing Group (NY)
Publish Date: 02/02/2010
Pages: 384
ISBN-13: 9781400052172
ISBN-10: 1400052173
Language: English

What We're Saying

November 04, 2010

Amazon has announced their Best of 2010 list, and a business book cracked the top 10 overall choices. Michael Lewis's The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine barely did so, coming in at number 10. (Two other books in the top ten that may appeal to nonfiction readers are The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot and The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson, which came in at numbers one and five respectively. READ FULL DESCRIPTION

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#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER - "The story of modern medicine and bioethics--and, indeed, race relations--is refracted beautifully, and movingly."--Entertainment Weekly NOW A MAJOR MOTION PICTURE FROM HBO(R) STARRING OPRAH WINFREY AND ROSE BYRNE - ONE OF THE "MOST INFLUENTIAL" (CNN), "DEFINING" (LITHUB), AND "BEST" (THE PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER) BOOKS OF THE DECADE - ONE OF ESSENCE'S 50 MOST IMPACTFUL BLACK BOOKS OF THE PAST 50 YEARS - WINNER OF THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE HEARTLAND PRIZE FOR NONFICTION 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.

About the Author

Rebecca Skloot is an award-winning science writer whose work has appeared in The New York Times Magazine; O, The Oprah Magazine; Discover; and many others.

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