"Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another, 'What! You too? I thought I was the only one.'" ~ C. S. Lewis

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Cover Love Thursday: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

This was our freshman read for this year, and as a professor of freshman comp, I had to read it as well. We incorporate the freshman read into one of our writing assignments over the semester.

I don't normally read non-fiction except in preparation for writing a paper. It's just not my preference.

But I am SO glad that I had to read this one. Rebecca Skloot is a master at prose and she weaves together her personal experience, interviews, stories she was told, and (most impressively of all) some pretty heady scientific information into a narrative that you will find yourself thinking of for months after you finish.

I love this cover. The orange and red is not only eye-catching, but looks quite similar to some of the colored pictures that have been taken of Henrietta's cells. The iconic picture of Henrietta herself shows the personal touch that is prevalent throughout the book.

Henrietta Lacks was a poor black woman diagnosed with cervical cancer. Her cells were taken without her knowledge and they launched an entire branch of medical research that revolutionized the industry - and her family never knew. She died at a very young age while her cells continue to thrive and grow even now. While Skloot cannot avoid the social issues of informed consent, race, social class, and economic status, this is mainly a story of a family.

Skloot meets Henrietta's husband and children, and as she develops a relationship with the family and, in particular, Deborah, she unfolds the story of a woman who was full of life and whose family considers her legacy to be much more than a medical marvel.

I cannot recommend this book highly enough. No matter your interest, I believe you will enjoy the narrative Skloot develops will engage, entertain, and enrich you.

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