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The Immortal Life...

EVD's picture

As I  continue to read The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, I'm amazed at how Skloot seems to come at this story from every possible angle (historical, medical, cultural) and from the perspective of her own journey, Henrietta's and Henrietta's family's. I think that simply the author's fascination with Henrietta and her cells is an interesting story on its is her journey to speak with Henrietta's family members...and even just the cells' medical narrative would make really interesting reading as well. Skloot even portrays Henrietta as a kind of heroine, adding another dimension to the book. I think that this book is an ideal combination of different types of literature. It may fall into many categories of both fiction and nonfiction but that inability to categorize this book makes it even more interesting to me.


Smacholdt's picture

 I agree and think that

 I agree and think that another level of the story of Henrietta Lacks definitely lies in Skloot’s journey (or struggle) to discover information about who Henrietta was. In the prologue of the book Skloot talks about the process of gathering information, writing it up, and how difficult and lengthy the whole process was.

Skloot is almost as present in this narrative as Henrietta is. She was with Deborah during some of the most important parts of Deborah’s realizations and discoveries about her mother (such as when they go to the lab to look at HeLa cells under a microscope). At times it even seemed like Skloot used portions of the book to justify some of her own actions. For instance, she tried to explain why she smiled while promising Deborah that she would not use a certain word in the published work. She seems to be trying to justify her own actions.

Another interesting thing that I noticed in the reading was that Skloot brings up the issue that we discussed in class of whether the cells taken from Henrietta are still “her” once they are removed from her body. Skloot’s point is that since the cells continued to grow and evolve after they left her body, changing so completely that even the DNA was different, that they are a “separate species” from Henrietta. While this logic makes sense, I still find it unsettling that doctors keep much of the human tissue that it removed during medical procedures and keep it for research.


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