Immortal HeLa

The Crandall Public Library Monday Evening Book Discussion Group gathered on June 18, 2012 to discuss Rebecca Skloot’s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. The festivities began with the presentation of a BBC documentary titled The Way of All Flesh.  Directed by Adam Curtis, the film did a fine job of telling Henrietta’s story, and illustrating early efforts to eradicate cancer. The conversation that followed was short but sweet, and focused on three themes.

The first of these was medical ethics, and the second was issues revolving around race and poverty.  The third motif was the writing process itself. In consideration of this, I thought that the group might enjoy the The Open Notebook’s How Rebecca Skloot Built the Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.  Among other things, the interview examines the work’s structure, and Ms. Skloot’s decision to include herself in the narrative.  The piece contains some fascinating insight.  You can check it out here.


Rebecca Skloot’s Home Page

NPR Interview

RadioLab Interview

New York Times Review

Rebecca Skloot talks about influential figures

Henrietta Lacks Foundation

Recommended Reading

If you liked The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, then the following two medically themed tomes might be just what the doctor ordered.

1) Cancer has fascinated and frightened me since I was a kid, metastasizing vividly across my imagination over the course of a lifetime.  Perhaps that’s why Siddhartha Mukherjee’s The Emperor of All Maladies: a Biography of Cancer is on my must read short listAccording to Amazon, which selected the work as its one of its Best Books of the Month, November 2010, Mr. Mukherjee has authored:

“…a magnificent, profoundly humane “biography” of cancer—from its first documented appearances thousands of years ago through the epic battles in the twentieth century to cure, control, and conquer it to a radical new understanding of its essence.”

Sound interesting? If so, you can dissect The Emperor of All Maladies at LibraryThing. Even better, fetch a library copy here.

2) Jill Bolte Taylor is a Harvard educated neuroanatomist who suffered a massive stroke in 1996.  In essence, My Stroke of Insight: a Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey is her accounting of the event, and the profound recovery that followed.   Truly, this one encompasses body, mind and soul.  Rather than post a critical review, I thought that you might enjoy Dr. Taylor’s TED Talk, which I have posted below.  Further insight about her book can be found at LibraryThing.  Grab a library copy here.

Parting Shot

I am excited and intrigued at the prospect of our July 16, 2012 meeting, which will feature Yoko Ogawa’s novel The Housekeeper and the Professor.  I think that Booklist does a nice job of distilling the work’s essence:

 “[A] mysterious, suspenseful, and radiant fable . . . The smart and resourceful housekeeper, the single mother of a baseball-crazy 10-year-old boy the Professor adores, falls under the spell of the beautiful mathematical phenomena the Professor elucidates, as will the reader, and the three create an indivisible formula for love.”

Oh, the irony!  Was it not just last month when I was complaining about the shilling of books?  In any case, have a fantastic Fourth of July, and we’ll see you soon.

1 Comment

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One response to “Immortal HeLa

  1. Thank you, Frank.

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