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The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks – 31 Days of Great Books – Book 25

standard October 25, 2013 Leave a response
Book 25 
There are people who love reading non-fiction books. My husband is one. I… am not. I like my reading to be escapist in nature and it’s really hard to escape into the realities held up by most non-fiction works.
The people in my book club however tend to thoroughly enjoy a good memoir or non-fiction book, so, in the last year or so I’ve ventured out of my literary comfort zone quite a few times.
And, I’ll be the first to admit, I haven’t really minded.
This past month we read one of those books that open up a huge avenue of thought that I had never even for a second considered. And, while much of the book was utterly disconcerting, it also made me grateful in ways I hadn’t expected.
Way back in the 70’s, a black woman in Atlanta, went to the hospital because she had cervical cancer. A biopsy of her cells was taken and given to a man who was desperately trying to find a way to make cells grow outside the human body.
It was a fluke, or a miracle, however you want to look at it, but her cells were particularly tenacious and aggressive and he had just discovered the perfect cell growing medium. And so, a strain of cells that would come to change the face of medicine as we know it were born.
The only issue was that they forgot to get the patients consent before culturing her cells, and they forgot to inform her or her family when they were successful.
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is the story of those cells and the woman they came from. It’s the story of how medicine, medical ethics, and medical privacy laws have evolved since the 70s. It’s the story of a family who lost a mother and much later discovered that bits of her were still alive… everywhere in the world. It’s the story of how education, even a little bit, can change so much in how much control a person has over his or her own life.
It’s deep, scary, eye opening, and incredibly gratitude inducing. You’ll walk away having cried for Henrietta and her family and wanting to write them a note for how much their mother has impacted your own life and health.
Read this book if: You enjoy non-fiction that ‘s so well written it reads like a novel. You love learning about people who have impacted our lives. You want to know more about our medical system and how it affects us all.
 
Would this make a good book club book? Without a doubt. Everyone in our group loved it or at the very least had something to say to add to the conversation. You’ll discuss ethics, life in the 70s, racism, health, journalism, and even the importance of family.

Want to read the other books on this list? Here they are!

Note: Links to books are affiliate links. If you purchase something on Amazon after clicking the links you’ll be helping to fund my book buying habit. My husband will be very grateful.

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