The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

oxnard_montalvo's review against another edition

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Dark. As. Fuck.

I had to let this one sit for a while before writing a review. It was disturbing; you get an inside look at the Lacks family pain and it can be hard to read. There's a balance too of the personal and the academic. So much eye-opening detail regarding medical consent and practice. Skloot weaves between it all masterfully; very lucid and clear writing that tackles complex issues while trusting the reader to keep up.

arantxalasa's review against another edition

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challenging dark emotional informative sad tense medium-paced


smateer73's review against another edition

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This book was excellent. Despite being a nonfiction piece, the information is strung together so well and the humanity aspect is so raw that it reads like a novel. This book will make you think and challenge your ideas on genetics, race, and so much more. This book was incredibly fascinating and pertinent to the field of genetics which I hope to study.

emeraldgarnet's review against another edition

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A well-written and interesting book.

lukey49's review against another edition

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emotional informative inspiring sad slow-paced


cecile87's review against another edition

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A riveting story. I was afraid to read it. Thought I'd feel the assaults of the mistreatment that come from being black in America. The casual insults, the harmful ignorance that is racial prejudice. So, I wasn't sure I wanted to deal with the stress.

Well, I ended up listening to the book and that propelled me through it. I don't think I would have gotten through it otherwise.

I cannot sum up so well. It was such a complicated book. The thread that was missing for me was the one that dealt with the promiscuity of Henrietta's husband and how he passed on various diseases to her which seemed to have led to the voraciousness of her cancer.

I'm amazed by the work Ms. Skloot did and glad that she brought this story to light. Racial injustice abounds in so many different ways, we just have to keep alerting people to it.

Also, the price of poverty and miseducation is so profound. I think we all lose when people are so disadvantaged.

That some of the youngest generation of this family have pursued an education gives me hope that some families can turn their story around to a more positive path and end up helping others along the way.

stephaniesteen73's review against another edition

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This was a very interesting book - it didn't "capture" me like other works of non-fiction but it was a great narrative, and led to deeper questions about race, class, family relations, religion, and above all, the tension between scientific advancement vs. privacy.

And really - immortal cells that are present in the billions and billions? Truth is truly stranger than fiction.

inesjp_'s review against another edition

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challenging dark emotional informative reflective sad fast-paced


Everyone should read this book. It has everything. It is painful, but wow.

s_sanfor907's review against another edition

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informative reflective


prettypious's review against another edition

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I avoided this book for a long time. I felt like I knew the Henrietta Lacks story really well, and I was aware the author was a white woman so I didn't have a longing for the book because I didnt think there would be too much new info added. By the time I had read 15% of the book, I realized I knew the story of Henrietta Lacks but I was not aware of everything she and her family had been through. I do think it's problematic that the family members were not able to write their own book and tell their own stories; however, it seems from the book that she did a lot of research, used a lot of primary sources, and engaged in countless interviews with the family, especially the youngest daughter, Deborah, who unfortunately passed away the day the books were released for preorder. This is important only because you have to trust that she felt that the author convey her story and experiences the way that she told it.

Ok getting that all of that out of the way this was a really good book. It is written almost as two books in one---one the scientific/technical part that explains the HeLa cells and the importance of Henrietta Lacks' cells to the science community and how they used it to improve public health. The other is this other ugly story of racism in the U.S. institutions, specifically the medical field. This part was really REALLY hard to read especially when they talk about the mistreatment of Ms. Henrietta Lacks and her daughter Elsie, the exploitation of the family by those trying to take advantage of them, the pain they dealt with related to losing their mom and also having the government and Hopkins play in their faces with their constant attempts to dehumanize and their moms. It was a lot.

Two parts of the book are going to stick with me for awhile. One, when the author and Deborah visit facility where her sister Elsie was committed up through when Pastor Pullum walker her down and when the scientist at Hopkins showed Deborah and her brother Zachariyya, Henrietta Lacks' youngest son, their mother's cells and explained how to use the microscope to view it and then explained the actual cell and what they were seeing.