#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. She was a poor black tobacco farmer whose cells—taken without her knowledge in 1951—became one of the most important tools in medicine, vital for developing the polio vaccine, cloning, gene mapping, and more. Henrietta's cells have been bought and sold by the billions, yet she remains virtually unknown, and her family can't afford health insurance. This phenomenal New York Times bestseller tells a riveting story of the collision between ethics, race, and medicine; of scientific discovery and faith healing; and of a daughter consumed with questions about the mother she never knew.
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I did not know beforehand what this book would be about so when I started reading about cells and tissue matter and cancer I thought to myself. O no, This is not a book for me! The next morning I woke up and felt a pain and immediately thought "do I have cancer?" Yes I am a bit of a hypochondriac, I admit it. lol.
Anyways, I did find it very interesting cause I had the worst biology teacher ever (or maybe it was me come to think of it, worst pupil?) and do not know much about that subject.
After reading half I did have a bit of a How shall I call it, not really wanting to read more cause I did not really like the way the family of Henriette acted in the book but I am glad I read on. I've learned a lot and even though it appears these people seemingly always shout, I see the good in them and understand now better how hard it was for them to find out.
The questions at the end of the book are intriguing and I am planning to google more about tissue donation, the law about that , Hela cells and the likes. So after all I am not regretting having bought this book.more
When this type of narrative non-fiction is done well it's something to celebrate and this book is done REALLY well. Every time I thought it couldn't get more interesting I would turn the page and be flabbergasted anew.
A quick bit of background: Every medical research lab in the country has a culture of what are known as the HeLa cells... They were the first and best cells to be reproduced in a laboratory setting and have been a part of almost every important medical discovery since the late 1950s.
Rebecca Skloot gives us not only a fascinating history of these cells and the good they've done, but -more importantly- introduces us to the family of the woman who they originally came from: HEnrietta LAcks, an impoverished African American woman from Maryland who was treated at John Hopkins for advanced cervical cancer.
This book does everything right. Whether it's clear and lucid science writing, nuanced and empathetic biographical portraiture, dogged journalism, or on-the-road memoir the reader is consistently rewarded with knowledge, entertainment, suspense, and emotion (I nearly cried when two of Henrietta's grown children get to see their mother's cells through a microscope for the first time).
It brilliantly handles tricky issues like medical ethics, race, class, and privacy with an impressive respect for her subjects.
This is the real deal.
The story of Lacks is a sad one, and the story of the HeLa cells is fascinating. The intersection of those stories is very odd. The book is very involving and frankly a little draining to read. I felt sorry for the family for all sorts of different reasons, not the least of which was their portrayal in this book. The reportage on the Lacks family members was a little disconcerting although I believe Skloot was being very accurate in her descriptions.
Well worth reading, but overwhelming and strange.more
I hate that Henrietta and and her family suffered so much because of how her cells were used. And Skloot emphasizes the irony that while Henrietta's cells made so much medical progress possible, her children and grandchildren can't even keep health insurance.
This book was also significant because it's the 1st book I've read on an e-reader. Although I think I will enjoy having my Nook when I travel, I prefer paper books -- especially when you want to be able to flip back and forth among pages or take notes.more
My only complaint about the book (which I read on my Kindle): I wish I had known from the start that there were notes at the end, and that the notes were broken down by chapter. Had I known that from the start, I certainly would have referred to the notes as I read each chapter. As it was, I got to the end and, frankly, didn't read them. A link to the notes at the end of each chapter would have been a nice addition.more
I didn't mind the author's insertion of herself into the story; the mistreatment of the family over the years has been so extensive that the only way to tell the story fairly was to gain their trust, and how Skloot went about this ends up being a key part of the narrative.more