What Rebecca's Reading
- 'Serpent-Handling' West Virginia Pastor Dies From Snake Bite A “serpent-handling” West Virginia pastor died after his rattlesnake bit him during a church ritual, just as the man had apparently watched a snake kill his father years before.
- A Dispute Over Who Owns a Twitter Account Goes to Court How much is a tweet worth? And how much does a Twitter follower cost?
- A dollar badly spent: New facts on processed food in school lunches In a collaboration between The New York Times and the Investigative Fund, reporter Lucy Komisar delved into the billion-dollar business of the national school lunch program and found some unsettling news.
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Rebecca Skloot's News
May 8, 2012
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks Author Rebecca Skloot to explore human-animal bond in new book for Crown
Contact: David Drake
THE IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS AUTHOR REBECCA SKLOOT
TO EXPLORE HUMAN-ANIMAL BOND IN NEW BOOK FOR CROWN
(New York, NY — October 13, 2011) Rebecca Skloot, the author of the multi-year, critically acclaimed, nonfiction bestseller The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, has reached agreement with Crown Publishers to write a new book that will focus on the human-animal bond and explore some of the biggest, and as yet unanswered, questions at the heart of animals’ roles in our lives.
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks was published by Crown in hardcover in February 2010 and has sold more than 1.25 million copies to-date in the U.S., print and e-book editions combined. It has been on the New York Times hardcover and trade paperback bestseller lists for a combined 74 weeks, and counting. The book was awarded the National Academy of Science, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine’s 2011 Best Book Award, among numerous other accolades. It was chosen as Amazon.com’s #1 Best Book of 2010, and named among the best books of the year by more than 60 media outlets, including the New York Times, Publishers Weekly, and O: The Oprah Magazine.
In her new book, which is as yet untitled, Ms. Skloot will employ the intimate storytelling and masterful reporting that made The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks a favorite of readers and critics alike. She will explore, among many other subjects, the neurology of human-animal relationships, human nature and responsibility, and the unexamined ethics of our relationship with animals. A publication date has not yet been set.
Ms. Skloot worked for more than a decade in veterinary medicine, first as a nurse for animals in general practices and emergency rooms, and later as a technician in veterinary morgues and neurology labs. In writing her book, she will weave personal stories — her own and others’ — with science, medicine, ethics, and history.
Molly Stern, Vice President, Publisher, Crown Publishers, acquired North American, audio, e-book, and first serial rights from Simon Lipskar at Writers House. Writers House retains foreign rights.
Said Molly Stern, “It has been a long time since a first-time science writer dominated bestseller lists in the way that Rebecca Skloot has, and her success speaks to her rare ability to convey scientific and ethically-nuanced subjects with real emotional power and clarity. We are very proud to be publishing her next book, which will resonate deeply with a wide range of readers.”
Crown Publishers is an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group division of Random House, Inc., whose parent company is Bertelsmann AG.
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May 8, 2012
Steve Silberman over at NeuroTribes recently asked several writers to share stories about teachers who’d had important impacts on their lives. Here is Rebecca’s contribution about her experience going through school, and the way her own path changed:
As people who’ve read The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks know, I first learned about Henrietta and her amazing HeLa cells in a basic biology class when I was 16 years old. My teacher, Mr. Defler, wrote Henrietta’s name on the chalkboard and told us she was a black woman. That was it, and class was over. I followed him to his office saying, “Who was she? Did she have any kids? What do they think about those cells?” He told me no one knew anything else about her. ”But if you’re curious,” he told me, “go do some research, write up a little paper about what you find and I’ll give you some extra credit.” At that point I was planning to be a veterinarian — something I’d been determined to do since I was a small child. I had no intention of becoming a writer. I looked for information about Henrietta but didn’t find anything, so I didn’t write that extra credit paper. But I never forgot about her — in fact, I was a bit obsessed by her.
More than a decade later, while working my way through an undergraduate degree in biology so I could apply for vet school, I took my first creative writing class as an elective. (Amazingly, the school I went to counted creative writing toward its required foreign language requirement, so I signed up for creative writing thinking it would be less work than the alternative… but that’s another story). At the start of that class, the teacher gave us this writing prompt: ”Write for 15 minutes about something someone forgot.” I scribbled, “Henrietta Lacks” at the top of my page and began writing an essay about how the whole world seemed to have forgotten about Henrietta, but I was weirdly obsessed with her. I fell in love with writing in that class but still had no intention of becoming a professional writer. I had what I now refer to as Veterinary Tunnel Vision.
Then one day, when I was getting ready to submit my applications for vet school, my writing teacher, the amazing John Calderazzo at Colorado State University, pulled me aside and said, Do you realize you’re a writer? And do you know there’s such a thing as a science writer? I didn’t. He told me he thought the world needed more people who understood science and could convey it to the public. You know, he said, you don’t have to go to vet school just because that’s what you always planned to do – you could get an MFA in writing instead. I told him I’d never even heard of an MFA and had never for a moment thought of giving up on my dream of becoming a vet. Then he said these essential words: Letting go of a goal doesn’t mean you’ve failed, as long as you have a new goal in its place. That’s not giving up, it’s changing directions, which can be one of the best things you ever do in life. The next day I started researching MFA programs in creative nonfiction writing. The rest, as they say, is history.
In 1988 when my biology teacher told me to see if I could find any information about Henrietta, neither one of us could have imagined that more than twenty years later, I’d publish a book about her having spent most of my adult life looking to answer a question he inspired in that classroom. Before my book came out, I tracked down that biology teacher, now long retired, and sent him a note: “Dear Mr. Defler, here’s my extra credit project. It’s 22 years late, but I have a good excuse: No one knew anything about her.” He was shocked. I was just one of thousands of students he’d taught in countless huge auditoriums, most of us (myself included) looking disaffected and half asleep. He didn’t remember that moment in class when he first told me about Henrietta, but I did. Which is an amazing thing about classrooms: You never know what random sentence from a teacher will change a student’s life.
(You can read the original post here, along with stories from many other writers about their educational experiences and teachers who inspired them.)
September 17, 2011
The National Academies of Science has just awarded its 2011 Best Book Award to The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, calling it, “A compelling and graceful use of narrative that illuminates the human and ethical issues of scientific research and medical advances.”
Click here for more information from the National Academies of Science.
September 8, 2011
“We’re very excited to be reading a book that’s been tearing up the bestseller lists for the past two years, Rebecca Skloot’s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,” writes Jeff Howe, facilitator of The Atlantic’s 1book140 reading club.
Get a quick primer on The Atlantic 1book140 reading club.
September 6 – 12: Discuss Part I, tagging each tweet with #1b140_1
September 12 – 19: Discuss Part II, using #1b140_2
September 19 – 30 Discuss Part III, Epilogue, Afterword, etc., using #1b140_3
August 29, 2011
NPR’s Talk of the Nation Interviews Rebecca Skloot about ‘Common Reads’ College Programs and The Immortal Life
NPR reports, “In recent years, a growing number of colleges have begun assigning “common reads,” books that all first year students read over the summer, and then discuss during their first week of school. Author Rebecca Skloot’s book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, is one of the most talked about books of 2010. It has since become a popular 2011 freshman common read.”
“There really isn’t any department within a university that can’t find something specific in the book that relates to it,” Rebecca Skloot pointed out in the NPR interview, “whether it’s law, women’s studies — it really does cross all of the different boundaries. And one of the things that I hear over and over from students and from teachers is not that it just touches all the disciplines, but it touches every student personally.
Because there isn’t a single person out there that hasn’t benefitted personally from these cells, whether it’s because they got the polio vaccine, or someone that they love survived cancer by being treated with a drug made using HeLa cells, or because they were conceived through [in vitro fertilization], which HeLa cells helped develop in the beginning…And there’s always a point in reading the book when a student realizes that. They sort of turn a page and go, ‘Oh, wait — that’s me! My mom took that drug.’ And I think that’s part of what helps to sort of bring it to life within the classroom.”
Listen to the podcast of NPR’s interview with Rebecca Skloot.
August 22, 2011
“A historical highway marker memorializing the legacy of Henrietta Lacks was dedicated at St. Matthew Baptist Church near Lacks’ final resting place,” reports the Gazette Virginian. “The Virginia Department of Historic Resources dedicated the marker to Lacks on July 29, 2011 close to her rural childhood home in Clover.”
Henrietta Lacks historical marker dedication ceremony in Clover, Virginia. In addition to the general community, guests of honor included some of Henrietta Lacks’ children and grandchildren.
Henrietta’s sons, David “Sonny” Lacks and Zakariyya Bari Abdul Rahman at the marker site honoring their mother.
Henrietta Lacks’ family members, including her children and great-grandchildren at the historical marker site.
Henrietta Lacks’ family members, including her children and great-grandchildren at the historical marker site.
The historical highway marker, honoring Henrietta Lacks and her contributions to science.
Photo credit, all photos: Virginia Department of Historic Resources
August 8, 2011
On July 29, 2011, The Immortal Life was a “double jeopardy” question on the TV Quiz Show Jeopardy!. Rebecca Skloot was flooded with emails, tweets, and phone calls from people who saw it and shouted out the answer at home.
“Love this!” says Rebecca Skloot. “I absolutely adore the image of thousands of people all over the country screaming “HENRIETTA LACKS” at their TVs in unison … Deborah Lacks would be so proud. And for the record, the contestant on the left with the big grin in the second photo got the question right for $2000. Many thanks to author Jamie Ford who snapped these pics for me – his book was a question on the show too. (You know your book has gone mainstream when … )”
Perfect for reading groups and classrooms! Check out this reader-generated online Jeopardy! game – you can play with up to 12 teams.
July 27, 2011
Rebecca Skloot has been named the winner of the 21st Century Award, given by the Chicago Public Library and the Chicago Public Library Foundation as part of the Carl Sandburg Literary Awards.
The award recognizes a Chicago-area writer for recent noteworthy accomplishments.
Author Rebecca Skloot and film critic Roger Ebert will be honored at the Oct. 20 Carl Sandburg Literary Awards Dinner, the Chicago Public Library and Chicago Public Library Foundation announced Tuesday.
The Chicago Sun-Times’ Ebert will be given the Carl Sandburg Literary Award, while Skloot will receive the 21st Century Award. The latter award recognizes a Chicago-area writer for recent noteworthy accomplishments.
“We sincerely believe that Rebecca Skloot’s profound book, ‘The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,’ and her other wide-ranging writing in the sciences make her one of the more important writers working in Chicago today,” said Library Commissioner Mary Dempsey.
July 26, 2011
Black Enterprise Magazine Names The Immortal Life One of “17 Books To Add To Your Summer Reading List”
“Whether you’re on a plane, in a car or lounging poolside, summer vacation time is the perfect opportunity to put a dent in your reading list,” writes Kahliah A. Laney. “The staff here at BlackEnterprise.com compiled a few of our top summer reads to help whittle down your choices….You’ll see books that range from autobiographies on Black history icons and manuals for success to financial guides and examinations of our social media culture, all aimed at giving you some food for thought.”
BLACK ENTERPRISE is the premier business, investing, and wealth-building resource for African Americans. Since 1970, BLACK ENTERPRISE has provided essential business information and advice to professionals, corporate executives, entrepreneurs, and decision makers.
July 26, 2011
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is being translated into more than twenty-five languages. Each international edition has its own unique cover, and we’ve gathered many of them on the new Translated Editions page of Rebecca Skloot’s website. We invite you to check out the various cover treatments – it’s fascinating to see different designs created by publishers from all over the world.
Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at how two of those international covers came together – from Jon Butler, Publisher of Macmillan Non-Fiction:
Both the UK hardback and paperback of The Immortal Life depended strongly on what first drew me to the book as an editor: The lost story of an extraordinary woman.
In that sense, my objective was to make both editions almost have the feel of a detective story, with a strong sense of time and place. Who is this woman? Why is she important to all of us?
To give a sense of 1950s America, we commissioned an incredibly talented typographer called Stephen Raw to create customized lettering for the title. That lettering, which appeared on both UK editions, very cleverly hints at 1950s book jackets, but also has a very human, hand-cut feel; it shows that the book has warmth, and soul.
For the paperback, our head of design, James Annal, came up with the smart idea of making the whole cover a literal ‘whodunnit?’ (or even, ‘whoisit?’): a silhouette of a woman in profile. It’s graphically very pleasing, but also captures so much of the book’s essence, I think: of absence and obscurity, and lost voices – of loss, full stop. The book has such a beautiful title that with this image, we hope that a reader can’t help but pick the book up and ask: who is Henrietta Lacks? Rebecca’s writing does the rest….
Named by more than 60 critics as one of the best books of 2010Buy the Book
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.