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    March 4, 2011

    General readers! Has Henrietta Lacks’s story captivated you? Have you benefited from her cells? Share your story.

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    If you have read The Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks, we want to hear from you!

    Since the book was published, readers of all kinds — scientists, teachers, nurses, librarians, members of book groups, high school and college kids, people old and young from all over the world — have emailed, written to and faxed author Rebecca Skloot sharing their thoughts about HeLa, and The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. We want to hear from you too!

    So many readers have been personally touched by the story of Henrietta Lacks: Did it change the way you think about cells, science, medical practices, research, race, American history, the way cancer is treated? What is your relationship to HeLa? Did HeLa cells help save your life or the life of someone you love? Did the book change how you think about your own research? Were you touched by the story of Henrietta’s family? If the book moved you, we want to hear about it. This is the place to tell us your story.

    Email us at lisa@rebeccaskloot.com with your story, thoughts, and comments, or post them in the comments thread below.  And stay tuned:  We are also collecting video testimonials, which we’ll be posting online soon.  If you’d like to submit a video testimonial, please drop us a note at the address above.

    154 Responses to “General readers! Has Henrietta Lacks’s story captivated you? Have you benefited from her cells? Share your story.”

    1. Rich Adler says:

      Many (too many) years ago as a graduate student studying poliovirus replication, HeLa cells served as our standard cell line for growing the virus. Many of the reasons are found in Skloot’s story: ease of handling, availability, etc. At the time the answer to the trivia question, and one on my orals, “What did HeLa stand for,” was Helen Lane. It was only later we learned the woman’s true name. Skloot’s writing covers so many areas applicable for college students: the science of course, but also the question of ethics as well as illustrating the overt racism endemic to the times. The history of the Lacks family is a story itself. My only criticism, and a minor one at that, is that no timeline is provided. [Editor’s note: A timeline is included in the paperback, along with more additional materials]

    2. Beth De Stasio says:

      We used Ms. Skloot’s excellent book as a common reading for our Capstone course in biology and biochemistry (at Lawrence University, a liberal arts college) this year and will do so again next year. We used the book to raise important issues of science (and medical) communication, ethics, issues of identity, and writing for non-scientists. We were able to view HeLa cells growing in the lab along with discussions of the text. One interesting point of discussion was “Who’s story is this? — How do you refer this book?” Since we typically refer to science writing by author, one might assume the answer would be ‘Skloot.’ But, for most students and faculty, it was not – the answer was ‘Henrietta.’ I hope the Lacks family finds that pleasing. A big thank you to them for sharing this story, and thanks also to Christoph Lengauer for finally giving the Lacks family the information and compassion they so deserved. Thank you Rebecca Skloot for your fine research and writing. I look forward to whatever you are doing next.

    3. Julie says:

      What an interesting, yet tragic, story. The pain that Henrietta and her family went through struck such a chord with me. The pain and confusion that Elsie went through broke my heart. I was very sad that Deborah didn’t get to see the finished product but I think she would have been very proud.

    4. Barbara McGehee says:

      One of the members of our soon to be 20 year Book Club selected this book for our January read. What a book. I could not put it down. The research done on this book was outstanding. I cried several times. I can’t wait until Oprah makes this into a movie.

    5. Retha Lemon says:

      Dear Ms. Skloot

      What an amazing book! Somewhere back in the fog of my memory I remember hearing the phrase “Hela cells.” I never really knew what that meant. When I heard of your book, I knew I had to read it. As a two time breast cancer survivor I was fascinated by the science and the research aspect of the story as well as the back story of Henrietta and her family. Very poignant!
      Now the book has left me wondering about my own telomeres! What could they be doing right this minute?!?! Also, it makes me thankful for Henrietta and her cells. What part have they played in the fact that, after 14 years, I’m still alive and well. And thank you for a very well written book. I’ll look for more books by you in the future.

    6. James W. Smith says:

      Thank you so much for this amazing book. I am not going to go into my thoughts of the medical communities take on a persons right or lack there of each persons cells. I will just say that I am torn on this issue. I would like to comment on Deborah Lacks. As I read the book she became the main focal point to me. Her personality is amazing, heart wrenching and genuine. I could not help being drawn to her as a person. At times I felt her torment and anguish. I was very happy to know that they thought she died at peace with all she had gone through. My life will be better a hundred fold by knowing her through your book. Again I thank you.

    7. swlll says:

      When I heard about this book I was in the middle of reading a book called”Bad Blood” about the Tuskegee syphillis study that started in the 1930’s. I wrote the name of the title down so that I might remember to buy a copy when I finished reading “Bad Blood”. I’m so glad that I did because it is an outstanding book. As I was reading “Bad Blood” it seemed to drag sometimes and caused me to loose interest at different times. While I did complete reading it, it took longer than normal to complete. It was completly the opposit with Rebecca Skloot’s book. I found it fascinating and hard to put down. I thank Ms. Skloot and all those who helped her for the time and effort they put into producing this masterpiece of reporting and writing. Having read these two books, as a human I am ashamed of how we can rationalize the way we treat some segments of our society. I hope that this book helps to spur action by those in power to correct the absence of laws that might prevent these types of abuses in the future. Thanks for writing such a powerful and moving book.

    8. Iman Akef says:

      I am from Egypt, and first heard about the book on the colbert report at the beginning of 2010. Right after the show I knew I wanted this book. I tried to order it through a big bookstore but the process took months and in the end the order was cancelled. Yet I didn’t lose interest, and waited until a few days ago when I had one of my relatives get it with him from the States. All I can say is it was definitely worth the wait ! While my career is no where near science or medicine (Marketing) I found this book very intriguing, and educating. Rebecca skillfully balanced the human and technical parts of the book, and was able to easily explain the technical parts for non-technical people to understand. Not to mention her brilliant writing style which captured your attention until you finish the book. Would definitely recommend it to all my friends, and greatly encourage the publishers to sell the book here in Egypt and the Middle East.

    9. Cherie says:

      Hello Ms. Skloot,

      I cannot stress enough how amazing I think this book is. You have managed to not only make complicated science understandable, but you also told an incredible story about the Lackses without stooping to condescension. I’m sure Deborah would be proud.

    10. When I first heard of this book, I had little sympathy for the notion that Henrietta Lacks was robbed of her cells; the notorious immortal cancer cells now known as HeLa were conspiring to kill her, after all. I expected a slanted, simplistic account of bad guy mad scientists exploiting yet another African American victim.
      I am myself a research subject. I am flown to Baltimore every month for an NIH study of DAC HYP to assess the drug’s safety as a treatment for relapsing/remitting multiple sclerosis. Things have changed for research subjects since Henrietta’s day. I am treated like royalty.
      I am grateful that this research drug is available to me; for the last 3+ years I’ve been on it, the disease progression appears to have ceased. I look forward to the day when other people with multiple sclerosis will have safe, viable options to halt their disease process, or better yet, the day when damage from multiple sclerosis can be reversed. I could receive no greater compensation than that.
      Because I have medical research to thank for my present quality of life, as well as for my hopes for the future, I bristed at what I perceived as white-guilt pandering.
      My opposition melted within pages.
      I found this book to be a passionately researched, hightly nuanced exploration of the many issues that have arisen from the HeLa cells.
      The first character I was taken with was the author herself. I’m not a big fan of new journalism (yet another oppositional bias) but I soon discovered that this particular journalist has more genuine courage than, say, Hunter S. Thompson.
      Rebecca Skloot is unafraid to go anywhere the pursuit of truth may take her. It takes her to some fascinating people, in disparate places, and I was thrilled to be along for the ride.

    11. Matt says:

      Ms. Skloot,

      Thanks for writing such an enjoyable book.

      I teach high school US History at the Santa Cruz Cooperative School in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia and the science teacher and librarian at our school turned me on to this book and I am luck they did.

      In addition to this being such an enjoyable and informed story, I will also be reading excerpts and having students to research based on passages, as it is a great example of cross-curriculum learning. Buen trabajo, as we say here.

      Regards,
      Matt Moore

    12. Lee Beckom says:

      I just finished the book. Thanks to Rebecca for dedicating so much time to a very informative book. I loved the way she mixed the technical with the personal. She put a lot of herself into collecting all those personal stories from the family.
      Here in Santa Barbara the University of California at Santa Barbara library has chosen this book to be the focus of this year’s Read. The entire community will be involved in the issues presented by this book. All communities should take the time to discuss not only the uses of our cells for research but the historical aspects of using poor people, blacks especially, for research without permission or consent. One other thing stands out: use of this family’s cell line yet the family itself cannot even afford health care. The need for a comprehensive health care plan for everyone is obvious.
      Thank you Rebecca Skloot for your time and energy.
      PS I loved your statement about how you got kicked out of regular school and went to an alternative high school where they taught classes on dreams. Having taught in an alternative high school I can assure you that a class in “dreams” can be much more relevant and useful to some highly individualistic and sensitive teens at that time of their lives. You should make a point to go talk to some alternative schools so the students can see that being in alternative education is not a dead end.

    13. Rose Kolodny says:

      As someone who’s not an American, this story not only brought to life Henrietta Lacks, but gave me a much greater understanding of the massive gap between the rich and poor in American society. It brought to life the racial problems, in addition to the lack of social security and healthcare.

      I’m proud to be part of a country that provides free healthcare at the point of contact, and long may it continue.

    14. Harry says:

      As I was recently searching for a new book on Barnes and Noble’s website, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, was a featured item. With the nature of the topic, I was concerned that the story could be sensationalized, or worse yet, dry and overwrought with statistics and medical testimony. I just finished the book, and found that the narrative style that Rebecca Skloot chose provided a wonderful balance between the humanity of Helen Lacks’ story, and the scientific contributions of HeLa. The story of the Lacks family, and Skloot’s interaction with them while she gathered information for the book, was engaging; while the scientific information was both enlightening and disturbing. The next time that I see a doctor, I’ll think about this excellent book. Can’t wait for Rebecca Skloot’s next book.

    15. Oliver Finney says:

      Having grown up in Texas in the 1940s, I have opposed racism on an intellectual level for many years, but I have always known that there was something inside that remained untouched. It’s like the difference between reading an author whom one knows ought to be respected, and eventually choosing to read that author because of the value (s)he adds to our life.
      Reading The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks and the election of Barrack Obama have worked to change my feeling about race in fundamental ways. I have grown to value Ms. Skloot’s book as, among other things, a “how to” book on race relations. It has nudged me toward my better self in a way that few other books or events have done.

    16. Karen says:

      I was enthralled, captivated and completely absorbed by this story. Ms. Skloot has done an amazing job of explaining scientific terminology and proceedures to the layman with accuracy and detail in such a way to capture the reader fully.
      Thank you for such a compelling story written so well!

    17. Anonymous says:

      I too am a scientist, and have used HeLa cells in my research. I have also performed experiments using 60+ other human tumor cell lines. After reading Ms. Skloot’s book, suddenly HUMAN is the focal point of the previous sentence. Bravo indeed.

    18. Candi Smith says:

      My comments are not so much about the book (which has yet to be extravagantly enough praised!) but about Rebecca Skloot’s writing itself. Aside from my fascination with the subject matter, I was awed by how Ms. Skloot told the story. Her segue from one subject to another, no matter how vastly different they may be, were flawless. Smooth as cheesecake. Unobtrusive and never jarring. And we’re talking about subjects as far apart as Deborah’s plans for school right into Rebecca being called to “testify” in Pullum’s church. Flawless! What a pleasure to read this book! Thank you, Ms. Skloot!

      p.s. HeLa@randomhouse.com doesn’t work.

    19. Kristy says:

      Just finished this book, I had it on my Kindle for awhile after hearing about it on NPR. I really enjoyed reading about the whole story! It was fascinating to learn about the science of it all. One tends not to think about the ethics of early science, but this book sure makes you aware of it!
      The story of Henrietta and her family is also so skillfully woven into the science, that the book is a real page turner! This is the type of book that should make its way into the High School curriculum!
      I will certainly recommend it for our book club!!

    20. Karen Smith says:

      About 25 years ago, I was infected with the HPV virus, and ever since, have been wondering when the other shoe was going to drop. Reading this book was personally daunting, since Henrietta Lacks died of such an aggressive cervical cancer, and she was also infected with the HPV virus (although there are different strains, and maybe I was fortunate not to have the same strain). I have always put my ‘head in the sand’, i.e. ignored regular checkup dates and avoided pap smears. But reading Rebecca Skloot’s book changed my mind. if Henrietta Lacks was able to endure her diagnosis and treatment with such courage, grace and dignity as is clear from the medical records and family remembrances, then the least I can do is find the courage to make an appointment for a checkup and go for regular followups. Perhaps the HeLa cells will eventually find a cure for cervical cancer and other cancers in the future so that nobody would need to go through such pain and have their lives shortened so terribly.

      Reading about Henrietta’s family was an absolute joy and inspiration. What an incredibly deserving family in every respect! Although I hope that with increasing fame and prosperity in the coming years, they still retain a measure of privacy and family connection, and a shield against those who may be too curious.

    21. Anne says:

      When I finished the book… I sat in silence – deeply moved by the story yet terribly ashamed that we as human beings have treated people so shamefully. Bravo for telling the story and exposing the injustice and inequity in treatment – medically, ethically and socially.

    22. Kham Gwin says:

      First off I would like to say I am not a reader. My mom showed me the book back in April 2010 and told me to read the first couple pages I rolled my eyes and sighed, but once I started reading I could not put it down. I then told my sister about it and how bad I wanted to read it and she then bought it and gave it to me as a gift. I read the Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks within 2 weeks. Mid – December 2010 I started reading it again, almost done too! This is an absolutely amazing book.

      Secondly I love science and this book opened my eyes up to a science history that I never would of learned at any university. I want to be an Laboratory Science and I haven’t been actively pursuing my dream, but this book ignites my love and yearning for science. It is truly an inspiration for me to reach for my dream.

    23. melisa says:

      as a cervical cancer patient i was moved by what happened to Henrietta Lacks and her family …..thank you Rebecca for writing this book

    24. MAD says:

      My son’s friend did a science experiment using HeLa cells at NIH while in middle school (she won first prize in her division). She and her mother told me about HeLa cells and Mrs. Henrietta Lacks. I saw the book while shopping at a big box store and bought it. My word! It was a hot read done in two nights. I passed the book to my boss at work and wanted to have the author at a conference. Now the conference has become a symposium dealing with the multi-faceted issues raised by the Lacks family’s story told by a clear narrative. (Yes, the author is keynote featured speaker).

      This book should be required reading for every middle school, high school and undergrad science class; it serves as a cautionary narrative of what not to do in science in the name of the so-called “greater good.” The “greater good” does not justify what happened to Mrs. Lacks or family and those who argue differently seem to fail basic ethics.

      Thank you Rebecca for such a poignant work and thank you, the Lacks family, for sharing a gut-wretching, personal story.

    25. Phyllis says:

      It has been some time since I read the story of Henrietta Lacks, but, I still can’t resist telling others about her life. I found the story fascinating and the authors dedication to this paramount undertaking to be an inspiration.

      I too believe that the doctor’s were wrong in not obtaining Henrietta’s concent to use her cells. However, I can’t help but ponder on how different life would be if they did ask and she declined. Would research in general, and cancer research specifically, be at the point it is today if this had been the case? Without those cells would the discoveries that they led to have been made? Of course, we will never know, but it is a viable thought.

    26. Ann Reynolds says:

      I just finished reading this book, and I was very moved by its story. I am 50 years old and taking courses at a local community college for a Human Services Degree. In my BIO I class our professor told us a little about Henrietta Lacks right before we looked at HeLa cells under the microscope. I told myself right then I wanted to read this book. It was not disapointing, thank you for educating me and many others on the real story behind HeLa cells. You gave HeLa a face, and introduced us to a couragous family who deserved so much more. May we all be forever thankful to a beautiful young black woman named Henrietta Lacks.

    27. Mike Cosgrove says:

      I happened to find out about the release of the book The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks in a little internet article that mentioned that the book was about to be released.

      The subject matter was right up there with some of the topics that have always peaked my interest: unexplained phenomena, science, and personal stories. After I had finished the article about the book’s release I went directly to Amazon.com to see if it was available yet for pre-order and was so thrilled that it was. I promptly paid for it and a few days later when it was delivered, I took it to work with me and used my entire lunch hour to dive into the incredible story. Strangely enough, the only place where I could read undisturbed was under the peaceful tree canopy at the cemetery one street over from my workplace, and I sat on a bench in that cemetery day after day, not eating lunch, and completely engrossed in this story which touches on the mysteries of life, death and the unknown.

      I told everyone I knew who enjoyed reading to get a copy of the book and when Rebecca Skloot came to Pasadena a few months later, I made a point of going to hear her read from her book and to thank her for writing it and making the complicated scientific details seem so easy to grasp.

    28. Michele Cusack says:

      I enjoyed and admired your book immensely, and bought a second copy for my son who works in biological research (with a BS from UC, he’d never heard of HeLA cells!) It’s a fascinating piece of history, and as so many have said, you made the science accessible to the layperson an interesting way and also told a good yarn re: the family which felt so ill-used.

      But … I don’t see how any real injustice was done to the Lacks family. Henrietta would have died even if she’d been treated by the fanciest Park Avenue doctors. (Even now ovarian cancer is often incurable- my 48 yr old well-insured cousin died from it- and such a virulent form certainly had no hope back then.) Neither she nor her family had any use for the cancerous cells which were removed from her body for research. No doubt it is a good thing for patients to give informed consent. But, what difference would it have made to Henrietta, or to her children? It was not the scientists’ fault that the family was poor, ignorant and feckless.

    29. Ann Maurer Jayne says:

      A professor of mine recommended this book for my son who is studying biology, thinking he may enjoy it. I read it instead and couldn’t put it down. Nothing else got done while I was engrossed in this book.

      Not only was it very entertaining, but it opened my mind’s eye on the history on medical ethics. Having never heard of the HeLa cell prior to reading this book, to furthering some personal research on medical ethics – this book was a great way to educate many on the history of this great contribution for us all.

      Can’t wait for the book geared for the younger crowd- will use it in my classroom! Keep writing please!

    30. Brent Danley says:

      Excellent read. I never bought the argument that the Lacks’ deserve anything from those who profit from Henrietta’s cells. Neither she nor they did anything to advance science. It’s coincidental.

      I enjoyed the biographical, historical and scientific adventure.

    31. David Brown says:

      I am a scientist, and I must admit that I don’t read very much ‘for pleasure’. Most of my time is spent reading scientific journals and writing, but my father-in-law told me about this book. He knew I had a dog in this fight – I spent my fellowship at Johns Hopkins and researched a little with HeLa cells. I purchased and read the book immediately. I loved it. The author’s research into the life of Henrietta Lacks and her family was thorough, and was eloquently balanced with the science of Mrs. Lacks’ cellular story. My wife (a high school biology teacher) also loved it, and talks about the book with her class. Congratulations on a job well done, and thank you for telling the story of Henrietta Lacks and her family.

    32. Mary says:

      I can remember in the mid-90s growing HeLa cells (among others). I was aware of Henrietta, but not the entire story. But I also remember a particularly interesting discussion in the lab one day when there was a movement to classify the cultured cells as another species–were they human, or not? What are species really–what does that mean when the cells were so far removed from their origin and didn’t couldn’t live outside the dish environment? Where does cancerous tissue fit into that?

      Lots of things to wrestle with as a young biologist.

    33. Vanessa Wilnerd says:

      I first heard of Henrietta Lacks while researching for a paper. Of course, it didn’t take long to find out about your book too. I never would have been able to piece together all of this information, or have gained so much insight into our science/medical history.

      Thank you for your research and care that you put into this book. God bless!

    34. Lisa says:

      I love love love this book. It was engaging, exciting, educational and enlightening. It brought to life a story that could have been written in a boring biographical style. I have never read creative nonfiction before, but I certainly would again if a book is half as good as this one. I hope that this book becomes a platform for the Lacks family to receive some kind of financial, educational (my preference) or otherwise beneficial contribution for what they have been through.

      Rebecca, keep on writing! I love to learn while I read and will be first in line for your next book. 🙂

    35. Melisa DiPietro says:

      As a first year biology teacher looking forward to one day having my own class, and as a volunteer for the Canadian Cancer Society I received this book as a Christmas gift. I only am able to finish reading books that I truly love – and this was the definitely the best book I read in 2010. I would never have thought there was much of a story behind all those the petri dishes and slides while I was pursuing my Undergraduate degree. I felt the author’s voice blending with my own as I explored the timeline of the evolution of ethics in medical research – you managed to do something extraordinary by taking an ordinary cell biology topic and humanizing it. You have inspired so much interest in this field to people from all audiences.
      This book should definitely be on a high school book list and I look forward to sharing this with the world. Thank you!

    36. Amy Buttell says:

      I have learned so much about cell cultures, the business of science and how minorities were exploited in the name of progress in science. The book has opened my eyes even more to what a big business science is and how drug companies and certain doctors profit off the illnesses of individuals.

    37. Review “whose cells are they anyway? http://wp.me/p1fRv-vo at Bioethicsbytes

    38. Anna Moore says:

      I was so inspired by the book that I have incorporated it as part of my required classroom texts for the high school biology course I teach. My students, initially dubious at the thought of using a novel in “science class”, have been overwhelmed by the text. I wish I had tape recorded our classroom discussions. As one excercise, I had each student write an obituary for Henrietta. I received some very moving work accomplished by 16-year-olds! Skloot’s book has been instrumental in my classroom this year. We have delved into individual characters in the text, talked about how racism has impacted science, discussed the Nuremburg Code and the history behind it, talked about doctor-patient relationships, and had rich conversations about cells, meiosis, DNA, and telomeres. The stduents have learned so much, but using a novel to supplment the learning has felt less threatening to them, I think – novels and book clubs feel familiar and comfortable (moreso than a science textbook, perhaps). I’m keeping a blog about the use of the book over the course of the year.

    39. Gail says:

      As a cancer researcher who has HeLa cells in my lab freezer, I enjoyed reading the book and learning about the life and family of Henrietta Lacks. Like the author Rebecca Skloot, I also learned about HeLa cells in a college biology class. We were told that the cervical cancer cells came from “a black woman named ‘Helen Lane'”. We were even given a copy of a poem that began, “This is the story of Helen Lane. She is gone, but her cells remain.” For years after that class, I’d often wondered about “Helen Lane” as I grew her cells in my lab. Reading the book “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” brought the story to life for me. It was clear that Ms. Skloot had spent many years and much effort to bring this important story to light. Since reading the book, I haven’t looked at our HeLa cells the same way again. I was excited to meet Ms. Skloot in person and now proudly keep an autographed copy of her book on my coffee table.

    40. Rachel says:

      I read this post below a while ago from a scientist who wrote about how the book changed his relationship to HeLa cells … it really moved me:

      “… It is a story worth telling — not just because it serves to remind scientists of the value of retaining some sense of the people they use, and the people they might hope to serve. Skloot’s journalistic eye (and tenacious investigation) captures a wealth of detail in uncovering the drama of the Lacks family. Their human story is more gripping than the scientific one, though never more so than when the two intersect. One of the most poignant episodes in the book is when cell biologist Christoph Lengauer, who has been contacted by Skloot, invites two of Henrietta’s children to look into his microscope to see their mother’s cells for the very first time, fifty years after she died.

      I’ve seen HeLa cells myself in the microscope but I never thought much about them beyond counting their number to check that my cultures were thriving. I grew HeLa back in the mid-nineties, litres at a time, to infect with poliovirus. This provided milligrams of purified virus particles that I could use to examine how poliovirus shifted and shimmied to trick its way into a susceptible cell. I didn’t know where the cells came from — sorry, who they came from. I was focused on the science, thinking only of how to get my experiments to work. I had quickly swallowed the pseudonym — Helen Lane — that had been put out by the scientists at Johns Hopkins to ‘protect’ Henrietta’s anonymity and never paused to question the circumstances of their origin.

      But I have now. And this year at Europic whenever I hear “we infected HeLa cells” or “here you can see the effect in HeLa” or noticed that four-letter label on a slide, the image of Henrietta floats into my mind’s eye. Hands on hips, smiling, she is here, watching us, following the proceedings.

      In reality, of course, she’s not here and she’s not aware of our discussions. But in the darkened conference hall I still feel the need to nod acknowledgement and whisper ‘Thanks.'”

      The full post is here, and very worth reading:

      http://blogs.nature.com/scurry/2010/09/21/the-lady-in-the-room

    41. Joanne says:

      I wrote about my thoughts and the impact this story has made on my blog back in May:

      http://readingcraftingbaking.blogspot.com/2010/05/henrietta-lacks-and-her-impact-we-all.html

    42. Maia says:

      I could not put this book down! It has changed the way I look at life in general. God bless you Rebecca for bringing the dark into the light! Henrietta, Elsie, and Deborah I wish I could hug you and tell you I love you! Your lives inspire me to be a better mother, sister, wife, and friend! To the living Lackses family may God richly bless you with all your heart desires….you are a living legacy.

    43. Debra Fish says:

      First of all, I am so sorry about what Henrietta went through. It is also sad that the family had no idea and had no benefit from the use of her cells. I don’t remember ever learning of the HeLa cells in school ( that was some time ago). I wonder if it is taught today? I think that everyone should know the origin of those cells and what we have gained from them.
      I liked the style of the writing. It gave you a very good sense of the characters. I had a hard time putting it down. I read a few chapters every evening and finished the book in 3-4 days. I highly recommend this book.

    44. S says:

      I found this book very absorbing, including the people from Mrs. Lacks’ life, the descriptions of places she lived, people she knew, the descriptions of places of even little known parts of Baltimore (where I was born and live), and the science of the cells. It is unusual to find science, humanity, history, politics and spirituality intertwined in such a fascinating manner. Ms. Skloot has done such a thorough job of bringing complex issues of science and bioethics into a story that the general public can relate to. I expect this book will generate more public awareness of the continuing lack of guidelines about the use of patient tissues.

    45. Tony Turner says:

      Hi,
      I heard about this book while I was in Auckland, New Zealand and decided to purchase it. I knew nothing about HeLa, Henrietta Lacks or anything else like it beforehand. The book was being promoted by a local book shop and the spokesperson spoke passionately about it.
      I learnt so much not only about HeLa, but also about a family who lost a loved one. I also learnt more about the so called ‘values’ of the United States and of the justice system and the government. I cried for the family and for the many other americans that have suffered due to the huge social injustices. I also found that this is another example of the great hypocracy that is the USA!
      I also felt immense pride at being an Australian and knowing that while we have had our own fair share of injustices towards our indigneous peoples, we have never hypocritcally preached what the USA has preached. How does a nation, a government and a people justify the treatment of the Lacks family that Mrs Lacks gave the world what she did and her descendants cant even afford health care. Shame USA, Shame!
      My father fought alongside the USA in Vietnam and died from Cancer caused by Agent Orange sprayed by both the US & Australian Governments.
      I was only 13 when he became ill and 16 when he died. Before he died he knowingly allowed scientists and medical students study him in order to find cures or treatments for cancer and other agent orange illnesses.
      I would like to personally thank the Lacks family for their mothers contribution to the world and thank Rebecca Skloot for a fantastic story! I laughed, I cried, I felt anger, I felt pride and I now feel empowerment!
      My plan is to now write to the USA Ambassador in Canberra to inform him of my feelings!
      God bless!

    46. trisha watson says:

      Dear Mrs. Skloot,
      It’s Christmas Eve and I just finished your (audio)book. I know it’s nonfiction, but it read like an epic novel. Exodus, Centennial, or Roots comes to mind. I can only compare it to books that have broken my heart, but changed me forever… You took the most sensitive and challenging series of events and made them understandable to readers outside the medical field. I learned so much and grappled with the moral dilemmas that you laid before us…What a heartwrenching and historic journey you have taken and thank you for the years and tears that you put into your amazing masterpiece. Thank you and Merry Christmas…
      Sincerely, Patricia Watson

    47. Kathy Austin says:

      Absolutely the MOST intriguing book I’ve ever read. A fascinating look at not only Henrietta’s life, but life during those times. HIGHLY recommended to everyone, young and old.

    48. Anonymous says:

      I’m usually not a non-fiction reader but when I read the review for this book I just had to read it. I was afraid the book was going to be too technical but the author Rebecca Skloot made the book so interesting. I’m glad the world got to know Henrietta and the injustice that was done. I’ve been recommending this book to all my friends.

    49. catherine says:

      I just finished the book and closed it saying out loud, “BRAVO.”

      Compelling, compassionate and courageous. Pat yourself on the back,
      Rebecca (“Boo”)—Deborah would have been proud!

    50. Amy Krenzer says:

      I heard Rebecca speak at the PRIM&R conference in San Diego in early December. After her moving keynote speech I was compelled to buy the book. I just finished reading it this morning. I can’t get over what an undertaking it must have been to become so committed to writing this book and getting Henrietta Lack’s very complicated and at times very upsetting, story told. I want to thank Rebecca for her extremely readable book (I am a non-scientist) and her dedication to fact checking. I work for an Institutional Review Board, and this sheds a very real light on my work. I haven’t stopped talking to people about this book since I heard Rebecca speak. Thank you. Keep writing!

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    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.