Archive for the ‘The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks’ Category

Alex & author Rebecca Skloot signing LLD copies of “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks”


On Sunday 9/23/2012 , fellow Lisle Library Reference Librarian Nancy (of Fixed on Fiction) &  I went to hear “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” author Rebecca Skloot speak at Elmhurst College. She was a great speaker, and held a wonderful question and answer session. I brought two of Lisle Library’s copies of her book, and afterwards Ms. Skloot signed them for us!


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“The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” author Rebecca Skloot will be speaking at Elmhurst College tonight, Sunday September 23, 2012 at 7 pm. You can find out more information on the event at Rebecca Skloot’s official website here or purchase an ticket in advance at Elmhurst College’s website here.

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Cookies & The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

The first Monday of the month the library was closed for Labor Day, so Booked for the Day met Monday September 10 to discuss Rebecca Skloot’s “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.” There was so much to discuss, the hour long discussion flew by – much like reading the book!

I mentioned several times the book’s website; where there are loads of pictures so be sure to check it out: http://rebeccaskloot.com/the-immortal-life/

Also, exciting news! Author Rebecca Skloot will be speaking at Elmhurst College on Sunday September 23, at 7:00 pm. I will try to remember to put up another blog posting closer to the date! (There is a $10 fee for non college attendees) http://public.elmhurst.edu/calendar/164755146.html#.UE4oSLJlTvY

In our discussion today we talked a lot about Henrietta Lacks as a person; how fun she must have been, and how she really shown through the book as a good person and a lot of fun to be around. We also talked about her daughter Deborah, and how hard it must have been for her to grow up not only without her mother, but also knowing so little about her.

We talked a lot about the author, Rebecca Skloot, as well. Everyone felt that she did a great job of telling Henrietta’s, and Deborah’s, story, as well as her own journey writing the book. She explained the science behind Henrietta’s cells in an understandable way, and never demonized anyone in the book. Everyone felt that Rebecca told the story of Henrietta Lack’s cells and the history of cell culture, while acknowledging that mistakes were made without making out any particular people to be a villains.

We talked about how the author seemed destined to write this book; and about how the story really seemed to be from the perspective of Henrietta, Deborah, and Rebecca. At one point the discussion turned to how Oprah had optioned the rights to the book to make a movie; and we wondered from whose point of view the story would be told.

There was a lot of discussion on the medical and ethical side of the book as well. There seems to be no definitive answer from the medical field or in the legal system how propriety of human cells should work. Right now it seems that while your biology is on your person it is your property; but after it is off your person; it is discarded and no longer yours. It seems a double edged sword of balancing privacy and the advancement of science that sparks a lot of feeling and discussion.

Overall the group really enjoyed the book. One member did think the book went a little long; and could have been about half the size it was; but everyone agreed it was a great book. Some people expressed how surprised they were that people they knew with science backgrounds knew all about HeLa cells; while others in the group were surprised they had never heard of them before!

I made cookies for this book discussion; the chocolate chip were store bought dough; but you can find the recipes for the rolo cookies and chocolate chip cookies here:

Rolo/Turtle cookies:http://allrecipes.com/recipe/pretzel-turtles/

Cherry Chocolate Kiss cookies: http://www.thecurvycarrot.com/2011/03/04/cherry-chocolate-kisses/

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The Hippocratic Oath is mentioned several times in “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.”  To read more about it, check out these sources:

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In Chapter 10 of “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,” author Rebecca Skloot visits the area known as Clover, Virginia (it’s so small, it has been deemed an “unincorporated town”) and the area within Clover known as Lacks Town.

Library and Information Science student Lucy, created a blog that reviews book with the setting of southern Virginia; and has a posting on “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks”. In the posting she writes about, and takes pictures of, the main street in Clover; you can see it here.

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Having trouble keeping whose who straight in “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks”? The book’s official website has a listed all the people in the book; broken down by Henrietta’s immediate family, extended family; along with the medical community. It’s a PDF file named “Cast of Characters,”  you can find here : http://rebeccaskloot.com/the-immortal-life/teaching/

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On page 33 of “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” the author describes the treatment that Henrietta received for cervical cancer. In the early 1950s, as the book stats, John “Hopkins had been using radium to treat cervical cancer since the early 1900s” and that “The morning of Henrietta’s first treatment, a taxi driver picked up a doctors bag filled with thick glass tubes of radium from a clinic across town. The tubes where tucked into individual slots inside small canvas pouches hand-sewn by a local Balitmore woman. The puoches were called Brack plauqes, after the Hopkins doctor who invented them and oversaw Henrietta’s radium treatment,” (page 32). As radium treatment, Henrietta had a tube filled with radium sewn inside her body.

A Google search of “Radium Tube Inserts 1950s” brought up this website; http://www.orau.org/ptp/collection/brachytherapy which has information and images about radium tube treatment from that time.

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