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Common book: 2014-2015

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Rebecca Skloot

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Rebecca Skloot book jacket

CEHD Reads Common Book for Fall 2014, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot tells the story of Henrietta Lacks (known by scientists as HeLa). Lacks grew up poor in a tobacco farming community in Clover, Virginia. When she became ill with cancer at a young age, she visited Johns Hopkins hospital for treatment. In 1951 cancerous cells were taken from her body without her knowledge. Those cells became a critical tool in multiple medical advancements, including the polio vaccine, cloning, and gene mapping. The HeLa cells have been bought and sold around the world, but Lacks family cannot afford health insurance. Skloot’s book raises critical questions about race, ethics and scientific discovering.