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The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
#1 New York Times Bestseller
“Lip. Dip. Paint. Three little actions with devastating consequences for The Radium Girls, a select group of glamorous girls employed as watch dial painters during the early 20th century. This is the tragic, true account of young women, promised wealth and prominence as an employee of the Radium Luminous Materials Corporation, yet delivered unexplained pain and suffering, betrayal and injustice. Determined to seek retribution for their impending death sentences, these gutsy gals fight for their families and for future safety standards for all. The sacrifices made by these brave women are awe-inspiring and unimaginably awful at the same time and will haunt my thoughts indefinitely.”
Kristin, McLean & Eakin Booksellers
Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. She was a poor black tobacco farmer whose cells—taken without her knowledge in 1951—became one of the most important tools in medicine, vital for developing the polio vaccine, cloning, gene mapping, and more. Henrietta's cells have been bought and sold by the billions, yet she remains virtually unknown, and her family can't afford health insurance.
This phenomenal New York Times bestseller tells a riveting story of the collision between ethics, race, and medicine; of scientific discovery and faith healing; and of a daughter consumed with questions about the mother she never knew.
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“Powerful story . . . I feel moved even to say on behalf of the thousands of anonymous black men and women who’ve been experimented on for medical purposes, thank you. Thank you for writing this important book.”
Kali-Ahset Amen, Radio Diaspora
“I can’t imagine a better tale. A detective story that’s at once mythically large and painfully intimate. I highly recommend this book.”
Jad Abumrad, Radiolab
About the Author
Rebecca Skloot is an award-winning science writer whose articles have appeared in The New York Times Magazine, O, The Oprah Magazine, Discover, and others. She has worked as a correspondent for NPR's Radiolab and PBS's NOVA scienceNOW, and is a contributing editor at Popular Science magazine and guest editor of The Best American Science Writing 2011. She is a former Vice President of the National Book Critics Circle and has taught creative nonfiction and science journalism at the University of Memphis, the University of Pittsburgh, and New York University. Her debut book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, took more than ten years to research and write, and became an instant New York Times bestseller.
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is being translated into more than twenty languages, and adapted into a young adult book, and an HBO film produced by Oprah Winfrey and Alan Ball. Skloot lives in Chicago but regularly abandons city life to write in the hills of West Virginia, where she tends to find stray animals and bring them home. She travels extensively to speak about her book.
“Like any good scientific research, this beautifully crafted and painstakingly researched book raises nearly as many questions as it answers. . . . In a time when it’s fashionable to demonize scientists, Skloot generously does not pin any sins to the lapels of the researchers. She just lets them be human . . . [and] challenges much of what we believe of ethics, tissue ownership, and humanity.”
“I could not put the book down . . . the story of modern medicine and bioethics—and, indeed, race relations—is refracted beautifully, and movingly.”
“Science writing is often just about ‘the facts.’ Skloot’s book, her first, is far deeper, braver, and more wonderful.”
The New York Times Book Review