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    May 26, 2011

    The Immortal Life Wins 2011 Audie Award for Best Non-Fiction Audiobook

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    The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks has won the Audie Award for Best Non-Fiction Audiobook of 2011 (Random House Audio, unabridged, read by Cassandra Campbell and Bahni Turpin). The Audie Awards recognize distinction in audiobooks and spoken word entertainment, sponsored by the Audio Publishers Association (APA).

    This multifaceted story interweaves a mini-biography of Henrietta Lacks and her family with an insider’s look at the history of medical research and Skloot’s journey to unlock the secrets of both. Lacks was a terminal cancer patient, and the cells doctors preserved (without her knowledge or consent) led to many medical breakthroughs. Interestingly, Caucasian Cassandra Campbell admirably portrays African-American Lacks and her associates, while only the small part of Lacks’s daughter is assigned to fellow African-American Bahni Turpin. The fine narration underscores the pain and frustration her family feels after Lacks’ death, the purloining of her cells, and the world’s failure to recognize her role. However difficult it is to acknowledge unscrupulous medical experimentation, Campbell’s star quality rivets listeners to this tribute to one whose life continues to improve health care worldwide.


    May 25, 2011

    The A.V. Club Interviews Rebecca Skloot

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    Another great interview with Rebecca Skloot, this one with the A.V. Club (Chicago). In it, Rebecca answers often-asked questions about writing The Immortal Life and working with the Lacks family. She also gives unique insight into her countless hours of science research (which included a petrified rat!):

    A.V. Club: You spent a lot of time with Henrietta’s children to learn about their mother and their quest to learn about the cells. What other research did you do?

    Rebecca Skloot: Much of my research for the science part was reading journal articles and interviewing scientists. Johns Hopkins has a George Gey [the scientist who bred the HeLa cell line] archive. They have 12 to 15 boxes of stuff in this room. There were thousands of letters that weren’t indexed, so I sat down and read them all. Then there was this paraffined rat from the ’50s with tumors all over it. I pulled it out, saying, “This is great!” But the people in the library were like, “Eww!”


    May 23, 2011

    Henrietta Lacks Given Posthumous Honorary Degree by Morgan State University

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    Dr. Henrietta Lacks — a fitting tribute to Henrietta’s profound contributions to medical research: Henrietta Lacks was just honored with a posthumous degree by Baltimore’s Morgan State University.

    Listen to this great All Things Considered segment on her posthumous award, and hear her son, David “Sonny” Lacks Jr, accept the award and speak on her behalf.

    Dr. Burney Hollis, a dean at Morgan State University, said this about Henrietta at the ceremony:

    She has attained a level and kind of immortality unreached by any other person in human history. Though she never knew of her largesse and never consented to being a laboratory experiment, her cancer cells became the foundation for advancements in the treatment of mankind’s most challenging forms of human affliction and suffering.

    A bit about Morgan State and its current president:

    On May 21, Morgan State University celebrated its 135th commencement exercise with more than 1,200 degree recipients. This year’s commencement speaker was Dr. Ruth Simmons, president of Brown University. Dr. Simmons is the first female president in the 247-year history of the institution, and is the first African-American to serve as president of an Ivy League institution. Dr. Simmons joined Baltimore philanthropist Eddie C. Brown and Henrietta Lacks as honorary degree recipients.

    Founded in 1867 as the Centenary Biblical Institute by the Baltimore Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, the institution’s original mission was to train young men in ministry. It subsequently broadened its mission to educate both men and women as teachers. From its beginnings as a public campus, Morgan was open to students of all races.


    May 21, 2011

    The Immortal Life Recommended on NPR’s Science Friday

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    Host Ira Flatow and authors Douglas Starr and Deborah Blum suggest their current favorite science reading material – and respond to listeners’ suggestions on NPR’s Science Friday (May 20, 2011).

    The Immortal Life Recommended on NPR Science Friday [Note: mention of The Immortal Life comes about halfway through the podcast.]


    May 16, 2011

    Medical Journalists’ Association Awards The Immortal Life Top Prize

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    Medical Journalists’ Association Open Book Awards (MJA OBA) awarded The Immortal Life its top award in “general readership non-fiction.”

    This book, which tells the story of the woman whose cancer cells yielded the first immortal cell-line, has been widely acclaimed and won the Wellcome Trust Award (2010). The judges, Sandra Hempel, a former winner of this Award, and broadcaster and author Adam Wishart, said Skloot ‘…excavates the many tragedies in Henrietta’s family, caught between the idealism of the scientists and the harsh realities of being poor and black in America.’


    May 12, 2011

    The Immortal Life “Provides a Profound Sense of History” Says Journal of the History of Medicine

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    The Journal of the History of Medicine calls The Immortal Life a “remarkable book” and envisions its use in diverse classrooms for years to come:

    Thanks to Rebecca Skloot’s remarkable book, the Lacks case is likely to become a classic in the history of biomedical ethics . . . Skloot is a science journalist but this book also evidences her skill as a historian . . . provides a profound sense of history. Students in classes covering ethics, public health, and the history of medicine, childhood, the family, women, the 1950s, and race will be engrossed by Lacks’s story. The many questions raised by the existence and use of HeLa cells will generate hours of classroom discussion.


    May 9, 2011

    The Immortal Life “as Vigorous as the Cells Themselves” Says Florida Times-Union

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    “If you have read and enjoyed Siddhartha Mukherjee’s impressive The Emperor of Maladies, a Biography of Cancer,” says book reviewer Mims Cushing, “you will find Rebecca Skloot’s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks a worthy companion.” What follows is a rave review of The Immortal Life in the Florida Times-Union:

    Skloot deftly switches from writing about the scientific angle of the story to the woman herself. Although she’s known for her scientific writing, she delivers far more than an objective, technical treatise here. . . .Cancer has smacked most of us in the face, whether it be a friend, family member or ourselves. An eye-opening look at the disease, this book is as vigorous as the cells themselves.


    May 6, 2011

    The Immortal Life “Continues to Dominate in Paperback Nonfiction”

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    The Boston Globe bestseller list is once again topped by The Immortal Life. The Globe’s “Off the Shelf” blog notes that The Immortal Life “continues to dominate in paperback nonfiction.”


    May 3, 2011

    Real Simple’s Book Club Discusses The Immortal Life

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    Erin Henry, Assistant Editor/Producer on RealSimple.com, announces The Immortal Life has been chosen by Real Simple readers as the “No Obligation Book Club” pick for April. “I could not be more excited to be leading the book club this month,” Erin says, “especially since we are going to be reading The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.”

    The virtual book group discussion is staged in three parts: Life, Death and Immortality. The discussions involve dozens of Real Simple readers, all of whom post thoughtful, provocative, smart questions and responses. Erin prompts the discussion with questions like these:

    What parts of the book made Henrietta come alive for you? Did you find that the doctors were too nonchalant with their research, or did you think that their attitude was a product of the times? Did you expect a different reaction from the scientific community? What did you think of Day? Did you expect more of him? What is your impression of Deborah? Do you find the court’s ruling to be fair?

    The discussion concludes with Rebecca Skloot’s answers to commonly asked questions about The Immortal Life.

    For more discussion of The Immortal Life, check out the Hela Forum – share your story and join the conversation!


    April 28, 2011

    Chicago’s WGN-TV Interviews Rebecca Skloot

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    “I’ve been traveling and talking about the book for over a year now,” Rebecca says, “and one of the things that’s so incredible is to see the moment when people realize: ‘I’ve personally benefited from these cells.'”

     


    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.