Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Henrietta's Immortal Life

Last night I was at a lecture at the university with guest Rebecca Skloot. She's the author of the NYT best-seller The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.

Who is Henrietta Lacks? And why is she immortal?

Henrietta is an African American woman - a poor tobacco farmer - who died decades ago.  But before she did, doctors took her cells without asking. Those cells never died. In fact, they were spread around the world and they launched a medical revolution, spawning a multimillion-dollar industry.

More than twenty years later, her children found out.

Henrietta's cells became one of the most important tools in medicine, vital for developing the polio vaccine, cloning, gene mapping, in vitro fertilization, and more. Henrietta’s cells have been bought and sold by the billions, yet she remains virtually unknown, and her family can’t even afford health insurance.

This book a riveting expose on the history of “HeLa” – the first immortal human cells grown in culture, without Henrietta’s permission – and the inextricable dark history of experimentation on African Americans, the birth of bioethics, and the legal battles over whether we control the stuff we are made of.

Even if you aren't a science geek, this is fascinating stuff and the book reads like fiction.

Rebecca put her life virtually on hold for a decade to research and write this book - befriending, educating and helping Henrietta's family along the way. It seems that all great successes start with a sacrifical investment of time and passion.

What are you currently sacrificing for and investing in? 

And if that's too hard or too personal to answer, what are you currently reading that's good?


  1. I am not answering either question... instead saying that the book sounds absolutely intriguing. I think I will add that to my must-read list. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Does it count that sometimes everything I do seems a sacrifice? :-) No...I guess I would say I am investing in my sanity and my family right now; cutting back on my volunteer load and increasing my mental rest quotient. This, in turn, is leaving me space to invest my heart and spirit in spending time with my Lord. Letting go of Martha and returning to my true Mary nature.

    And I'm reading a book you recently mentioned, "Beautiful Battle." It's something I needed to read and I'm already getting "ah hahs" and clarity.

    Wouldn't mind some good dark chocolate type of reading material, though. I need a good fiction immersion! :-) Well, I don't need it (kind of like I don't need dark chocolate), but I would like to savor and enjoy it.

    Have a blessed evening!


    1. Yes - that counts. It's a wise investment, Leah!

      Don't you love when ah-has and clarity come?

      As for dark chocolate reading... this may not interest you and it's a memoir, not a novel (but it reads a lot like fiction) but I'm about half-way through The Sharper the Knife the Less You Cry and I've been enjoying it. But I tend to love nearly all books that feature food. This one is about a woman who decides to go study at Le Cordon Blue in Paris. It's secular, not Christian.

      Actually I have it on CD from the library so I've been listening to it in my car as I run errands or drive to speaking engagements. I totally adore the woman's voice who is reading it to me. I can't say whether or not I would like it as well on the page - that's how much I enjoy her pronunciation and accent. :)

    2. I will have to look that one up, Rachel! I wish I could listen to it on CD, but I don't get to drive much anymore. It's cramping my singing practice routine. I do love it when the reader has a voice you like listening to, for sure!

      Yes, I surely do love when the fog clears and voi la! everything makes sense. :-)

      Thanks for the recommendation!

  3. Right now I am studying the 12 Spiritual Disciplines in the hopes of being able to break them down a bit more and reintroduce them in a fresh new way, giving people the chance to incorporate them in today's busy living.

    What am I reading right now? Oh, girl, LOTS! Re-reading Hidden Joy {Wendy Blight}, reading An Untroubled Heart {Micca Campbell} , and getting ready to start in on Sometimes He Whispers, Sometimes He Roars {Marilynn Chadwick}. Those are in addition to other books from Richard Foster and couple of others that are stacked on my desk.

    <3 Heather


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