The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

by Rebecca Skloot

Henrietta Lacks, as HeLa, is known to present-day scientists for her cells from cervicalcancer.

  • Hardcover
  • Pages: 370 pages
  • Average Rating: 4.03 out of 5
  • Published February 2nd 2010 by Crown Publishing Group
  • Original Title: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
  • ISBN: 1400052173 (ISBN13: 9781400052172)
  • Edition Language: English
  • URL: Go To Website
  • Characters: Henrietta Lacks
  • Literary Awards: Ambassador Book Award for American Studies (2011)
  • Audie Award for Nonfiction (2011)
  • Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize for Nonfiction (2010)
  • Wellcome Book Prize (2010)
  • Puddly Award for Nonfiction (2011) ...more Goodreads Choice Award for Nonfiction and Debut Author
  • Nominee for Favorite Book
  • Favorite Heroine (2010)...less

Henrietta Lacks, as HeLa, is known to present-day scientists for her cells from cervical cancer. She was a poor Southern tobacco farmer who worked the same land as her slave ancestors, yet her cells were taken without her knowledge and still live decades after her death. Cells descended from her may weigh more than 50M metric tons. 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 was buried in an unmarked grave.The journey starts in the “colored” ward of Johns Hopkins Hospital in the 1950s, her small, dying hometown of Clover, Virginia — wooden slave quarters, faith healings, and voodoo. Today are stark white laboratories with freezers full of HeLa cells, East Baltimore children and grandchildren live in obscurity, see no profits, and feel violated. The dark history of experimentation on African Americans helped lead to the birth of bioethics, and legal battles over whether we control the stuff we are made of.