Have you ever sat down to read a non-fiction work only to find yourself feeling like a naive ignoramus, a dim bulb who is blithely walking through this world oblivious to its realities? This was especially the case for me as I opened up this book. Page after page I read, my jaw dropping with every flip. I learned about miraculous vaccinations and therapies that have benefited billions of human beings all over this world….their creation the result of a few cells taken without permission from a woman, a poor black woman, who was dying of cervical cancer, taken without her knowledge by a well-intentioned researcher and then cultured and turned into a multi-billion dollar revenue generating machine for so many….only not the woman, not her family, not Henrietta Lacks’ children, or grandchildren, or siblings, or spouse. Racism, questionable ethics, no laws broken because laws devoted to human subject research didn’t exist in the 1950’s. And even the laws that due exist today are vague and not necessarily in place to protect patients.
It is difficult to describe this book–it is a book of science, it is a real-life detective story, it is a biography, it is a work of advocacy, it is an expose’.
Rebecca Skloot is my new writing heroine. A decade researching Henrietta Lacks, bringing her story to the forefront. I’ll admit, I found this a painful read in so many sections, and I’ll never be the same. I have told everyone I know about this book, that it is such a worthwhile publication. And they are buying and reading it and all having the same experience with the read.
This book should be required reading for high-school biology.