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  • The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
  • The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
  • The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

Crown

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

Crown

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

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Product Description Product Description
  • Crown Publishing Group NY
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Customer Reviews

Reads like a novelThe idea that I held of this book didn t appeal to me at all until I read that it was one of Ursula K. Le Guin s two favorite books, the other being Grapes of Wrath, which I read & found to be astonishing & unforgettable. Still, I approached this book with determination rather than anticipation, & discovered a revelation! Instead of just some dry reportage of scientific discoveries, which I d expected & frankly didn t feel particularly up for, it was a fascinating story of the author s warm & compassionate embrace of the terribly damaged members of the Lacks family, especially Henrietta s children who had not only endured grinding poverty, but incredible cruelty at the hands of a woman who had detested their mother and of their considerable & undiagnosed hearing deficits which had caused them to fail at obtaining an education despite their efforts. The book does tell of how Henrietta s cells became a phenomenon, but in an interesting way, & raises the ethical question of her cells being harvested for research. A lot of reviewers have made much of the family feeling exploited by researchers making enormous profit from the cultivation & distribution of the HeLa cells, as they were known, & they did, but I was more impacted by how deeply they yearned & grieved for their mother herself. I especially appreciated reading about the process of the family emerging from their considerable confusion about their mother s much touted immortality to understand & appreciate the benefit their mother s cells had been to the advancement of medicine, thus bringing health to untold numbers of people. I have a spiritual belief of Divine Order; I found it to be very apparent in this story. I certainly recommend it.5HIGHLY recommended!!!Great, well-researched story written by an excellent writer who spent well over a year of her life locate and interview many people not only from the extended family involved, but also those in the research and medical fields as well as others including a records archivist who was able to provide previously unavailable or forgotten documents, photos, and other images. I saw the movie (Oprah Winfrey was not only an actor in the movie, but I believe also the director or co-director), and then bought a copy of the book based on the recommendations of a friend. The movie is outstanding, but the book goes into even more detail and depth. It is so sad and disconcerting to know at what lengths those in power in the medical and/or research fields (including some teaching hospitals at that time!) would go to to get what they wanted, whether it was recognition or acknowledgement in their field, or the realization that what Henrietta Lacks (the cells that continued to self-replicate and move research with cells into a whole new sphere eventually came to be known as HeLa cells, an abbreviation of Henrietta's name) could do for future research utilizing cells and potential treatments or cures.5The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks an instant classic this is one of those stories that genuinely needed to be told.From the very beginning there was something uncanny about the cancer cells on Henrietta Lacks s cervix. Even before killing Lacks herself in 1951, they took on a life of their own. Removed during a biopsy and cultured without her permission, the HeLa cells (named from the first two letters of her first and last names) reproduced boisterously in a lab at Johns Hopkins the first human cells ever to do so. HeLa became an instant biological celebrity, traveling to research labs all over the world. Meanwhile Lacks, a vivacious 31-year-old African-American who had once been a tobacco farmer, tended her five children and endured scarring radiation treatments in the hospital s colored ward.In The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Rebecca Skloot introduces us to the real live woman, the children who survived her, and the interplay of race, poverty, science and one of the most important medical discoveries of the last 100 years. Skloot narrates the science lucidly, tracks the racial politics of medicine thoughtfully and tells the Lacks family s often painful history with grace. She also confronts the spookiness of the cells themselves, intrepidly crossing into the spiritual plane on which the family has come to understand their mother s continued presence in the world. Science writing is often just about the facts. Skloot s book, her first, is far deeper, braver and more wonderful.This work has the most human of stories at its core, and never deviates from that important, and often heartbreaking, humanity. When science appears, it does so effortlessly, with explanations of cell anatomy or techniques like fluorescence in situ hybridization seamlessly worked into descriptions of the coloured wards of Johns Hopkins hospital to Lacks s hometown of Clover, Virginia.But The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is not a comfortable read. I visibly winced at descriptions of Henrietta s blackened, burned skin after multiple rounds of devastating radiation treatments. I put the book down with a heavy sigh after reading about the experiments that black Americans have been unwittingly subjected to over the years. I cried twice, at events that I can t talk about without seriously spoiling the book. But it is uplifting too, particularly in a stand-out chapter where Henrietta s children, Deborah and Zakariyya, visit a cancer researcher to see their mother s cells under a microscope.All of this is to be expected of a book that refuses to shy away from tackling important themes the interplay between science and ethics, the question of who owns our bodies, and the history of racism in the US. And yet for all its grand scope, skilful writing and touching compassion, there is one simple element that makes As a final thought, I was struck by the parallels between Henrietta s cells and her story. Henrietta s entire family history was eventually condensed into a small sliver of cells that you could carry in a glass vial. They have achieved immortality, used by scientists throughout the world. Similarly, her entire life has been condensed into a moving tale and an exceptional book that you could read in a comfortable day. By right, it will achieve the same immortal status.5Educational, entertaining, and an overall great readI ordered this book to read for one of my Ethics classes. I was worried about so much assigned reading to complete in one week, but it turned out to be a book that you just can't put down.It still amazes me that this is a woman's real life story, the story of her family, and how they have impacted science and anyone who works or benefits from the use of cellular research. That means just about every single person is connected to Henrietta in one way or another.This was a great book that I'm so glad I read. I learned a lot and it kept me entertained and fascinated for days. It will really change your perspective and make you appreciate this woman's contribution to our scientific and health fields.4Good story about a black family, but told from a white woman POV.I don't like how this was pitched as "being through the eyes of her daughter", when the book is clearly written through the eyes of the author. It is a good read, but make no mistake about this: It is a story of a black family told from the point of view of a white woman author. Much like "The Help". It's interesting enough, but I was disappointed by the lack of detail and sensitivity to issues with race and class- it is clearly told from the point of view of white privilege.3Mesmerizing Medical HistoryI was mesmerized by this book. In 1951 Henrietta Lacks, an African-American woman suffering from severe abdominal pain and bleeding, entered Baltimore s John Hopkins Hospital, where the wards were still segregated, and the care of Black patients was rumored to be inferior to that accorded Whites. Baltimore s Black community even claimed that Hopkins kidnapped people in the dead of night, right off the city s streets, to serve as unwilling subjects of gruesome research projects. Unsurprisingly, Black patients like Henrietta went to Hopkins only when they were critically ill or dying.Henrietta was quickly diagnosed with an aggressive form of cervical cancer. During her radium treatments, cells from Henrietta s cervix were harvested and given without her true understanding, her family would later maintain to Dr. George Gey, a Hopkins researcher who was trying to create the world s first line of immortal cells, or cells that could regenerate themselves indefinitely. Dr. Gey was successful and the HeLa cells were born. The immortal HeLa cells became a medical miracle that would give rise to life-saving drugs like the polio vaccine and various cancer therapies. Within weeks of her entering Hopkins, Henrietta died, and her name was quickly lost to history. Some later articles said her real name was Helen Lane, but there was little immediate interest in discovering the true identify or life story of the woman behind the HeLa cells. Her husband and children were left uninformed even as to her diagnosis and had no idea what happened to her during the autopsy that Dr. Gey performed. At the heart of Rebecca Skloot s story is the desperate longing of Henrietta s children to know who their mother really was. Skloot focuses on daughter Deborah, who has only a lock of her mother s hair, a treasured possession that she keeps in the family Bible. Deborah pursues obtaining official recognition of her mother s contribution to science and worries that her mother s cells experience pain in the research she imagines as inflicted upon them.Henrietta had been born in Clover, VA, in the home-house that had served as her ancestors slave cabin. She was a wife, a loving mother to four children, a woman who adored dancing, and a caretaker in both her family and her community. In her life, her greatest journey was from Clover to Baltimore s Turner Station neighborhood, but her cells would travel to outer space on rockets, studying the impact of space travel on human beings.The HeLA cells were harvested and grown just before the birth of the Civil Rights movement, and at the confluence of so many issues: healthcare parity for impoverished, minority, and disadvantaged patients; medical privacy; and especially, informed consent. Her husband and children have long maintained that Henrietta never donated her cells. They wonder why her cells could jump start a multi-billion-dollar industry, while they themselves could never even obtain health insurance. Most poignantly, they struggle even to pay for the hearing aids they need to treat their congenital deafness.Fans of nonfiction and medical science histories will love this book. I certainly did.5Informative and Entertaining. I recommend it.The first thing I think about after completing a book is - did I enjoy it? I absolutely did enjoy 'The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks'. And that is despite my lack of initial interest in the book jacket synopsis. Author Rebecca Skloot wrote an entertaining and very informative book. But as with a number of other reviewers, I have a lot of different thoughts about the book, some good and some not so good.The book is really several parallel stories tied closely together. First, there's Henrietta Lack's own story and those of the HeLa cell line developed from her biopsy tissues in 1951. Then there is the story of the Lacks family; impoverished, poorly educated, and ignorant of their mother's medical signifiance. Finally, there's the author's own story about her multi-year effort of research, interviews, and writing Henrietta Lacks' story. At times, the intertwined stories seemed to get in each others way. The disappointing thing to me, is that Henrietta's story itself, gets rather short shrift while the peripheral stories of Henrietta's children, grandchildren, etc.; as well as the author's story, take up the lion's share of the book.These are fairly minor complaints, however. The book is unique, interesting, and most importantly, a joy to read and I recommend it.4The human cost....This could have been the amazing story of how a poor black woman's cells are used to combat, cancer, HIV , HPV, polio, and many more. And it is, a mother of five goes to John's Hopkins for a mass in her abdomen, a particularly aggressive form of cervical cancer, likely caused from HPV or other STD's she caught from her philandering husband. it's the casual way the medical community used (and profited from) cells samples from patients. In a world before informed consent, indeed before ethical testing laws, a young, pretty, vivacious woman deals with the culture of non disclosure to patients. A world where the doctor's word is sacrosanct. As a nurse I found this fascinating, people are much more protected now.But it's more than that, it's the story of Henrietta's family finding out 20 years later that their mother's cells are alive, and helping medical science! They deal with anger, disbelief, and a feeling of betrayal, since others have made money from her Henrietta's cells and they, ironically, can't afford health insurance! Skloot does a wonderful job describing the ongoing difficulties meeting the family and gaining their trust, describing their emotions and reactions (including superstition) in a way that humanized them. Many books have been written about the HeLa (HEnrietta LAcks) cells and the their effect on medical science. This book tells you what kind of person she was, and how it affected her family. One of the best books I've read in a while.5A must readWhat a great book. My previous boss gave me a copy to read and I then bought a copy off of Amazon. I'm sending it to my cousin. Its a must read for anyone, regardless of race or ethnicity.5Everyone should know about Henrietta LacksPicture an African American woman in the early 50s, her name was Henrietta Lacks...She had cervical cancer, as diagnosed when she went to Johns Hopkins, the only hospital within twenty miles, that at the time, accepted black patients for treatment.At about the same time, Dr. TeLinde, one of the top cervical cancer experts in the country, was trying to prove that even noninvasive cervical carcinoma should be treated, and that it could easily be arrested if biopsies were performed on Pap smear results. Thing was, most women didn t go for Pap smears, and only consulted a doctor when something was amiss. Dr. TeLinde needed cell samples that would grow in culture and not die outside the body to carry out his studies and prove his point. He asked Dr. George Gey, head of tissue culture research at Johns Hopkins. Dr. Gey was collecting cell samples and trying to grow one outside of the human body, so tests such as the one Dr. TeLinde needed could be carried out. But no success so far, all cells eventually die. Until that cell that was taken from Henrietta. It didn t only not die, it multiplied! To this day, HeLa cells continue to be used throughout the world in science and medical studies. The book said that these cells have now been living outside her body longer that it lived inside it.I didn t know about these extraordinary cells until I read this book. Not that I should, as I am not in the field of science nor medicine. But like everyone else, I know about the polio vaccine and how it saved a lot of children; but not that it was Henrietta s cells that helped in its discovery as well as other advances in medicine: chemotherapy, in vitro fertilization, cloning, gene mapping...It even went up to space so scientists could test what would happen to human cells in zero gravity! Wow!The book talks about the cells and more about the woman who was Henrietta Lacks and her family. Henrietta died months after a sliver of the cancer cell was taken from her cervix; a pity and an irony as her cells would be key to a lot of cures we know so commonly today. Even more pitiful was how she remained mostly unknown and unrecognized.I have said enough to not spoil your reading. A lot more is taken up in this book on the science of Henrietta s cells; the struggles of her family; the ethics on medical consent... This book, years in the making, is a great honor to the woman to whom medicine owes a lot. Kudos to the author Rebecca Skloot, who made it possible after she first heard about Henrietta in a community college biology class.5
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