This afternoon I completed reading “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” shortly before running off to see her family speak at a nearby high school. The book was part of One Book, One Community and so there have been a month of events surrounding the story. It was the most difficult for me to rate the book and in the end, I gave it four stars.
The reason it was so trying for me to rank was mainly due to the ethical issues brought up in the book. It was hard to separate the quality of the writing from my strong feelings regarding the issue. At first, I LOVED the book. HeLa is something I heard of but learning more about it fascinated me. I really enjoyed reading the science portion at the start of the book. The author’s research was an incredible effort of love that took years and the book was well written! The reason for 4 stars is due to the remainder of the book.
I grew SO tired of listening to 200+ pages of whining family members about how much money was owed to them due to the use of their mother’s cells. I can’t imagine what it must be like to lose a mother, but to swear and get into fights because someone sold your mother’s cells is a bit much. Everyone who goes through surgery or even has a mole removed has cells somewhere that at any time can be used for research and the advancement of science. They should be proud that the impact their mother made on the world. I’m not sure her impact can even be measured it’s so significant.
I felt I connected the most to Deborah who although obviously upset, realized how influential her mother was in the world of science. Think about how many individuals lives were changed due to Henrietta Lacks. How many lives were saved? It’s remarkable!
Yesterday evening, I went to a nearby high school to hear David (Sonny) speak but it turned out he was unable to come due to health problems so his children ended up speaking on his behalf. They were upbeat, positive, and proud of their grandma’s contribution to science. They discussed how each generation has improved themselves and the woman mentioned her daughter’s AP class she took as a freshman. When confronted with money questions, they said that Rebecca Skloot, the author, really gave them an opportunity and it was up to them to work and make their own success. I appreciated the fire within them.
The audience on the other hand drove me NUTS with their talk of suing and getting money. Her grandchildren never even met her so for them to seek money for their grandma’s contribution is ludicrous to me. Be proud and move on! From the speech, it sounds exactly what the family is doing I just wish the audience was more on board.
In the end, I am glad I read this book and increased my background knowledge regarding Henrietta Lacks! It was also quite the opportunity to meet her family and I’m thrilled with the turn of events that allowed me to meet them! Thank you so much to the Flossmoor Library for planning and participating in One Book, One Community!!!