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New Student Book Experience
2012 Reviews

The Immortal Life of Henreitta Lacks book cover

Keisha CarrNominator #1 Comments:
This non-fiction book follows the life of Henrietta Lacks, a Black woman who had her cells taken from her in 1951 without her consent. Since then, her cells have become widely used in scientific research and medicine. For many years, her family knew nothing of what happened to Henrietta's cells. To this day, they have not received the financial benefits that resulted from Henrietta. Rebecca Skloot details the journey the Lacks family has taken since Henrietta's cells were taken and her own personal journey in gathering information for the book. The book brings up legal and ethical issues regarding consent in research and medicine, which may be something that students have to face in their careers. This book highlights discriminatory practices that existed in the 1950s. This may encourage students to think about whether or not similar practices still exist today. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks covers many fields, such as history, science, sociology and more. The interdisciplinary aspect encourages students from every major to participate. A significant part of this book addresses different types of family relationships. Students may compare and contrast their family to the Lacks' family. The author first became interested in the subject on a whim while taking a college biology course. Ms. Skloot's determination to learn more about an unknown subject may encourage students to ask questions about subjects they are interested in. A few scenes of the book take place in and around Baltimore, which may be familiar to some students.

Nominator #2 Comments:
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks tells the story of one of the most important tools in science. To many around the world Henrietta Lacks is known as HeLa. HeLa cells have been used in the scientific community for cloning, gene mapping, the development of various vaccines and much more. However, Henrietta, a poor black tobacco farmer and housewife, never knew her cells had been taken from her and neither did her family. This book tells the story of Henrietta Lacks and the effects her cells had on her family and the world. This book would be a great experience for new students to read because not only does it incorporate many disciplines, such as science, history and sociology, it's a provocative book that raises questions about science, racism and ethics. Also I think it is important for everyone to know the contribution Henrietta Lacks has made to the advancement and improvement of our society.

Nominator #3 Comments:David Eisenmann
In high school science class the author finds out about an unnamed black woman whose cells have been living forever in dishes in biomedical labs across the world, and which have made major contributions to science and the fight against cancer, and she sets out to uncover her history. The book has everything: enough science for the premeds and science inclined, but the science is not center stage and is easy; local Baltimore African American history; gripping personal and family narratives; the dilemmas faced by authors; bioethics then compared to now. I think the book will appeal to a lot of audiences, which explains its surprising bestseller status.