My time is consumed with rewriting Peach Seed Monkey so I haven’t read a book cover-to-cover in months. But this past week I spent every spare moment reading Rebecca Skloot’s, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. The book’s been out since 2010, so I’m late—my copy has been stacked on my bedstand with many other titles I’m collecting to read when I finish writing. Don’t know what made me start reading the Lacks’ story, but I’m glad I did. I’m sure most of you are far ahead of me, but for those who haven’t read it or don’t even know the book, it’s an important story:

In 1951,  a poor, black tobacco farmer named Henrietta Lacks died of cervical cancer at John Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland. The attending doctor—who lived into his nineties—never saw another tumor like Henrietta’s. Without the family’s knowledge samples of Henrietta’s normal and cancerous cells were taken for cancer research, as was and still is done countless times, in search of cells that will become “immortal”, providing priceless opportunities for all kinds of research. But Henrietta’s cells were/are like no other and launched an incredible true story that would finally come to the world stage in Skloot’s astounding account.

Kept alive in cultures for the past 50 years, Henrietta’s cells have been on a parallel course with world history; from civil rights to the cold war; genetics and polio to AIDS. Depending on your POV, this story reads like a novel or science-fiction-horror. Onethingaboutit, like the HeLa cells, this is a story like no other:

“Doctors took her cells without asking. Those cells never died.
They launched a medical revolution and a multimillion-dollar industry.
More than twenty years later, her children found out.
Their lives would never be the same.”
— Book cover, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks