The Super Cell

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot is a highly informational non-fiction book that reads like a riveting novel.  Ms. Skloot tells the story of Henrietta Lacks, an African American woman living with cervical cancer in Baltimore, MD during the 1950s.  While being treated at Johns Hopkins Hospital in downtown Baltimore for cervical cancer, doctors took cells from her body without asking her permission.  Outside her body Henrietta's cells, known as HeLa, replicated endlessly driving scientific research, multiple discoveries and today's cell-culture industry.  Every other chapter, Rebecca Skloot weaves in Henrietta's life story, bringing with Henrietta's graceful, but difficult life growing up working class during the Jim Crow era.  Rebecca Skloot then ties in the stories of Henrietta's family members living today with the knowledge that their mother/aunt/cousin/friend changed science forever, but was never asked if she wanted to.

I'm a science nerd so I loved this book because I was able to learn so much about cancer, cell culture and science in the 1950's but you don't have to love or even like science to find it enjoyable.  While informative throughout, the book is not heavy on medical terms or cellular processes.  In fact, for most of the book I felt like I was reading a novel with well-developed fictional characters that draw you in and pull empathy from you with every passing page.  This book raises numerous ethical, racial and medical questions, and will leave you wondering what happens to all those cells you forget about when you leave the doctor's office.  A must read for individuals and book clubs alike!   


Karen said...

Library or owned? Can I borrow it the next time you're up north?

royela said...

they had a law & order episode about this!

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