Sunday, June 1, 2014

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

Henrietta Lacks was a tough, fun-loving, full-hipped Southern black woman, she wore red nail polish and loved to dance, and even more than that she loved her family. She didn't let poverty and a lack of education ruin her life. Cancer did that. Henrietta died, but her cells never did. After she died of cervical cancer in 1951 cells cut from her cervix lived on. Known as HeLa Cells, they have played a major role in developing numerous medical advancements, including various vaccines, hormones, vitamins, chemotherapy, and drugs to treat leukemia, cancer, influenza, hemophilia, and Parkinson’s disease.

The author does a wonderful job of combining science and history and bridging the gaps in between. She presents the science in a way that is easy for even the most casual reader to understand. And she tracks down the descendants of Henrietta Lacks to tell the human side of the story. It’s very real, powerful, and moving. This is a great read for those who enjoy well-written non-fiction and learning about a life, and legacy, that hasn't already been the subject of a dozen books. It’s also an excellent choice for those who like learning about science but frequently find books about it either over their head or incredibly dry, or both.

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