The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, the debut novel from science writer Rebecca Skloot, is taking on a life of its own. Henrietta Lacks was a poor African-American tobacco farmer diagnosed with cervical cancer in the 1950s and treated at John Hopkins Hospital. Unknown to her, doctors harvested the cells for research purposes. Those cells proved to be “immortal”—and invaluable—to researchers, leading to important medical advances (the polio vaccine, chemotherapy, cloning, gene mapping and more) and generating a multimillion-dollar industry. Skloot was first introduced to Lacks’ story by her high school biology teacher. That same year, Skloot’s father was a volunteer medical research subject at a local medical school. The author’s job was to drive him there a few times weekly to get experimental drug infusions. “I spent a lot of time at the clinic waiting for him, doing homework and grappling with lots of fear and hope,” she says. “When my teacher told us about Henrietta, I wondered if her children felt the same things.” The award-winning book will be made into an HBO movie produced by Oprah Winfrey and True Blood’s Alan Ball.
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The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
Crown / February / 9781400052172 / $26.00
This book was featured in the Kirkus Best of 2010