2011 Summer Reading
May 20, 2011The EC READS program is pleased to announce...
This summer, Emmanuel students, faculty, staff and alums are reading: THE IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS
A riveting true story that reads like a whodunit...
From the book jacket: 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, 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 afford health insurance.
This New York Times bestseller takes readers on an extraordinary journey, from the "colored" ward of Johns Hopkins Hospital in the 1950s to stark white laboratories with freezers filled with HeLa cells, from Henrietta's small, dying hometown of Clover, Virginia, to East Baltimore today, where her children and grandchildren live and struggle with the legacy of her cells. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks 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. It's a story inextricably connected to the history of experimentation on African Americans, the birth of bioethics, and the legal battles over whether we control the stuff we're made of.
Incoming first year students will participate in a discussion of the book during Welcome Week, and will write a paper on it in their First Year Seminar course.
To purchase your copy (and get free shipping!), please call the Emmanuel Bookstore at 617-739-2232.
Click here for a series of reading questions about the book.
- Denise Grady, "A Lasting Gift to Medicine That Wasn't Really a Gift", New York Times, 1 Feb. 2010.
- Interview with Rebecca Skloot on NPR's RadioLab; includes audio of Deborah Lacks talking about her mother's cells and recordings of key scenes from the book, such as Deborah seeing her mother's cells for the first time, and the faith healing performed on her by Gary Lacks.
- Rebecca Skloot's website
- Rebecca Skloot's slide show of scenes from the book
- A reader's guide to the book from Skloot's website
HELA cells dividing:
Beyond the book... suggestions for further learning:
- Extensive website from the Centers for Disease Control about the history of the Tuskegee Syphilis
- View the film Miss Evers' Boys about the African-American nurse who participated in the Tuskegee syphilis experiment
- A report from the Applied Research Center on racial disparities in health care today
- The Nuremburg Code - Directives for Human Experimentation
- National Bioethics Advisory Commission publication: Research Involving Human Biological Materials: Ethical Issues and Policy Guidance
Looking for other summer reading possibilities? Here is a list of other books suggested by Emmanuel faculty members:
- Napoleon's Buttons by Le Couteur and Burreson
- The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
- The Man Who Was Thursday by G.K. Chesterton
- The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
- Big-box Swindle: The true cost of mega-retailers and the fight for America's Independent Business by Stacy Mitchell
- All Souls by Michael Patrick MacDonald
Questions? Contact Laurie Johnston.