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    October 3, 2009

    The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks Gets Starred PW Review and a Shiny New Cover


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    The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.jpgLots of excitement here at Culture Dish:  The final cover for The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks has arrived (see left). And … <drum roll> … the the book’s first pre-publication review has hit the press:  In the issue coming out this Monday, Publishers Weekly gives The Immortal Life a starred review, calling it, “a remarkable debut … a rich, resonant tale of modern science, the wonders it can perform and how easily it can exploit society’s most vulnerable people.” (wOOt!) Full review here and here:

    “Science journalist Skloot makes a remarkable debut with
    this multilayered story about ‘faith, science, journalism, and grace.’
    It is also a tale of medical wonders and medical arrogance, racism,
    poverty and the bond that grows, sometimes painfully, between two very
    different women–Skloot and Deborah Lacks–sharing an obsession to learn
    about Deborah’s mother, Henrietta, and her magical, immortal cells.
    Henrietta Lacks was a 31-year-old black mother of five in Baltimore
    when she died of cervical cancer in 1951. Without her knowledge,
    doctors treating her at Johns Hopkins took tissue samples from her
    cervix for research. They spawned the first viable, indeed miraculously
    productive, cell line–known as HeLa. These cells have aided in medical
    discoveries from the polio vaccine to AIDS treatments. What Skloot so
    poignantly portrays is the devastating impact Henrietta’s death and the
    eventual importance of her cells had on her husband and children.
    Skloot’s portraits of Deborah, her father and brothers are so vibrant
    and immediate they recall Adrian Nicole LeBlanc’s Random Family.
    Writing in plain, clear prose, Skloot avoids melodrama and makes no
    judgments. Letting people and events speak for themselves, Skloot tells
    a rich, resonant tale of modern science, the wonders it can perform and
    how easily it can exploit society’s most vulnerable people.” – Publishers Weekly, starred review.

    To say Culture Dish is thrilled about that review would be an understatement.  And we would be remiss at this point if we didn’t point out that you can pre-order your copy (for 36% off!) by clicking here (available in both hardback and unabridged audio). 

    There have been a few other exciting developments that I’m not allowed to report on yet, but will as soon as I’m able.  For now, all I can say is, wOOt! 

    About the cover:  I’m curious to know if the He and La in her name on the cover jump out for people who know HeLa …

    6 Responses to “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks Gets Starred PW Review and a Shiny New Cover”

    1. Scicurious says:

      Congratulations!!! It sounds completely fabulous!

    2. Thanks for the enthusiasm all. @Rosie, what a great shirt! A version of that slogan floated around for a few years in the 70s and popped up on at least one med school bathroom wall. But back then it was “Helen Lane lives!” since most people believed the cells came from Helen Lane, which was a pseudonym. Many still believe the cells came from Helen Lane. Perhaps we’ll have to revive the slogan with Henrietta’s name on t-shirts after the book comes out!
      And @Karen: Glad you found your way here. Thanks for the pre-order!

    3. Karen says:

      I’ve never read your blog before but I saw the announcement for your book on the Scienceblogs page on facebook. It really piqued my interest and you certainly received an awesome review. I just pre-ordered a copy and will get it in Feb 2010. And of course, now I will also read your blog.

    4. Coturnix says:


    5. I used to have a T-shirt that said “Henrietta Lacks lives!”, but people kept asking me who Henrietta was and why she lacked lives.

    6. DNLee says:

      wOOt! for Skloot!

    Named by more than 60 critics as one of the best books of 2010

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    The Henrietta Lacks Foundation

    The Henrietta Lacks Foundation strives to provide financial assistance to needy individuals who have made important contributions to scientific research without their knowledge or consent.