I found out this week that the television movie, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks airs tomorrow, and cast includes Oprah Winfrey, portraying Lacks’ only surviving daughter.
I read the book and posted my review on Goodreads, in February 13, 2013 giving it a 4 star review, out of a possible 5 and share it with you now.
I almost didn’t read The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks because although I’m intrigued by science I often don’t understand the theories behind them. Once I grasp a theory I mentally translate it into a tangible concept to become something I can assimilate and digest. However, not in this case; because this book is not about scientific ideas in an academic sense, it’s mainly a story about family and the struggle and legacy children face when they lose their mother. What makes it jaw dropping, sad but true is the racial divide and perspective between black and white, wealthy and poor, Northern and Southern in the United States at the time.
In 1950 Henrietta Lacks was a poor Southern tobacco farmer who worked the tobacco farm as her slave ancestors had, yet her cells—known as HeLa, were taken without her knowledge—and “they” became one of the most important tools in medicine. Her cells helped lead to important advances such as, in vitro fertilization, cloning, and gene mapping, and have been bought and sold by the billions. Yet neither she or her family were recognized, financially compensated, and she remains virtually unknown.
It’s an engrossing read, one in which the author labored and seemed to put the details into a narrative style that is smart, sharp and focused.