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    July 24, 2010

    The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks Chosen as Boston Globe and TED Book Club Picks

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    The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is being read by book clubs around the world, including several associated with organizations (like TED) and publications, including the Boston, which today called the book, “Exhaustively reported and absorbingly written.”

    In other news, The Hastings Center, a bioethics institute, just gave The Immortal Life a rave review as well.

    July 8, 2010

    Pardon Our Dust While We Move


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    As many of you know, I moved my blog Culture Dish yesterday from ScienceBlogs, where it’s been the past few years.  As Carl Zimmer pointed out in his post about PepsiGate and the many bloggers who relocated, moving a blog is no small undertaking.  Fortunately, I have a rockstar web designer who created this blog here yesterday and transferred my old Culture Dish archives to this site.  But we still have quite a bit of work to do, so pardon our dust.  The photos didn’t transfer from the old blog, and some of the formatting of the old posts and comments are wonky from the transition, as is some of the layout of the blog page.  And comment moderation is on because … well … I can’t figure out how to turn it off.  We’ll be fixing all of that and adding new features in coming days, but I wanted to throw this post up to welcome folks to the new Culture Dish, which may or may not be the permanent Culture Dish. I haven’t decided yet.

    I’ve been giving a lot of thought to whether I want to blog independently here, or as part of any number of wonderful media blogs out there. Many people have asked whether I’m considering starting my own blogging cooperative:  I’m not.  For now, I’ll be blogging here, and will post updates on the future when I have them.  And perhaps most importantly, as I figure out where I want Culture Dish’s virtual home to be, I will also be moving my actual home.  This blog move happened to come up just days before I move from Memphis to Chicago (Moving: Boo!  Chicago: Yay!).  So things may move a bit slowly as we get things moved both physically and virtually.  But the basics are ready:  You can subscribe to Culture Dish’s RSS feed either by clicking here, or scrolling to the bottom of the page and clicking “Blog RSS.”  You can also post comments.  And I hope you do.

    Update:  I’ve turned off the comments feature until I can figure out how to address the flood of spambot comments that get posted here.

    July 7, 2010

    Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks Named as one of Ten “Best Books of the Year … So Far” by Amazon

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    Amazon.com calls The Immortal Life one of the “must-reads of the year,” naming it one of the top ten “Best Books of the Year” to date. About the book, it said:

    “For a decade, Rebecca Skloot doggedly but compassionately gathered the threads of Henrietta’s story, fashioning in The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks a rich and haunting tale that redefines what it means to have a medical history.”

    For more information, and the full list, click here.

    July 7, 2010

    Culture Dish Doesn’t Live at ScienceBlogs Anymore


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    As I said yesterday on Twitter, a big conflict of interest and transparency problem has arisen on ScienceBlogs. Like several other bloggers at ScienceBlogs, I’m now on a hiatus, however like like David Dobb’s, Blake Stacy’s, and others, my hiatus from ScienceBlogs will be permanent. I’ve been contemplating moving my blog from ScienceBlogs to my own site for a while for several reasons, but PepsiGate has sealed the deal for me. Several of my ScienceBlogs colleagues summed up the situation well, including PZ Myers, GrrlScientist, and Brian over at Laelaps. For a full recap of the issue and other ScienceBloggers’ responses, see this post from today’s Guardian. For a clear explanation of the ethical problems that make it so I will no longer be affiliated with Science Blogs, see this from the Knight Journalism Tracker: “ScienceBlogs Trashes its Bloggers’ Credibility.” I’m now looking for a permanent new home for my blog.  In the meantime, you can follow me on Twitter and Facebook and via this blog which has been moved to my personal website.

    UPDATE: The Guardian has just posted this letter sent to all ScienceBlogs bloggers today by  Adam Bly, head of Seed Media Group and ScienceBlogs.

    Update 2: See the Knight Journalism Tracker’s response to Adam Bly’s email linked above.

    Update 3: ScienceBloggers have just received a note from Adam Bly saying that in response to all of this, ScienceBlogs has begun making changes to the Pepsi blog, including adding a statement about conflict of interest and funding, adding a banner labeling it as “Advertorial.”

    July 2, 2010

    Detailed Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks FAQ Page Now Online


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    I’ve been working for a while to develop a Frequently Asked Questions page to answers the most common reader questions about The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. Well, it’s now online, and it addresses questions ranging from why HeLa cells are immortal to how the Lacks family is benefiting from the book. It also includes answers to commonly asked publishing questions, like, How do I break into science writing? You can read it online here.  If you have burning questions not answered there, leave them in the comments section below — I’ll add to the FAQ as questions arise and time allows.

    July 1, 2010

    NPR Names The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks as one of the Top Five Best of the Bestsellers

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    NPR has just named The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks as one of the top five Best of the Bestsellers (the only nonfiction book in the top five), saying:

    The explosive ingredients in this nonfiction book — a scientific thriller, an untold family story, an exploration of race and class — add up to riveting social commentary. Released in February, the book (which is slated to be an Oprah-produced HBO film) remains one of 2010’s most-talked-about titles. Skloot’s dramatic narrative follows three tracks. The first traces the life of Henrietta Lacks, the great-great-granddaughter of slaves, who died in 1951 from aggressive cervical cancer, leaving behind a husband and five children. Skloot parallels that with the story of the cells (codename: HeLa) drawn from Lacks’ tumor, which became the world’s first “immortal” human cells cultivated in a laboratory. The writer’s third narrative thread weaves in her own relationship with Lacks’ children in the years after they find out about the highly lucrative medical uses of their mother’s cells (which were taken without her permission). In a final act of authorial grace, Skloot is donating a portion of the book’s proceeds to the nonprofit foundation she set up to provide scholarships and medical coverage to Lacks’ descendants.  (Full story online here)

    July 1, 2010

    First Experiment to Attempt Prevention of Homosexuality in Womb? Really?


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    Pregnant with Foot.jpgA press release landed in my inbox today with this headline, which raised my eyebrows (as it was obviously intended to do): “First Experiment to Attempt Prevention of Homosexuality in Womb.”  It starts with this quote from Alice Dreger, a Northwestern University bioethicist: “This is the first we know in the history of medicine that clinicians are actively trying to prevent homosexuality.” The release was announcing the publication of a piece at the Hastings Center Bioethics Forum titled, “Preventing Homosexuality (and Uppity Women) in the Womb? — it was written by the same authors that started quite a stir recently over one researchers use of vibrators in follow up exams with young girls to test whether their clitorises worked after he’d surgically altered them.


    June 29, 2010

    Rebecca Skloot Discusses The Immortal Life on BBC World Service

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    Now online: Rebecca Skloot discusses The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks and the ethics of tissue research on BBC’s Health Check. Listen to the interview here.

    June 27, 2010

    PBS Religion & Ethics Newsweekly Features The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks & Rebecca Skloot

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    PBS just aired a great segment on religion, ethics, and tissue research — it examines informed consent, who should profit from cells and tissues, and the stories of Henrietta Lacks and the Havasupai tribe. It includes interviews with Rebecca Skloot & other experts, as well as footage of the Havasupai tribe reclaiming their tissue samples, which were used in research without consent. Click here to watch the segment online now.

    June 25, 2010

    Rave Reviews for The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks in the UK

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    The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks was published a few weeks ago in the UK, where it’s getting rave reviews. Below, a sampling:

    Immensely moving” — The Guardian (full story here)

    “Skloot writes with sensitivity about race, class and education … Science writing is often dry and factual. This compelling book is anything but: as the pacy narrative unfolds, you feel the author’s passion and the family’s pain as they grapple to understand how Henrietta’s cells have become part of a multimillion-dollar industry.” — Irish Times (full review here)

    “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is moving and magnificent … Told with grace, compassion and humanism, this questing, intelligent book makes comprehensible a complex tale of scientific discovery while offering up a heartbreaking account of racism and injustice. More fascinating than much fiction, it succeeds in bringing hidden lives, past and present, to light.” — Metro Times (full review here)

    An extraordinary book … If science has exploited Henrietta Lacks [Skloot] is determined not to. This biography ensures that she will never again be reduced to cells in a Petri dish: she will always be Henrietta as well as HeLa.” — The Telegraph (full review here)

    “[A] remarkable and moving book … a vivid portrait of Lacks that should be as abiding as her cells … Skloot has written an important work of immersive nonfiction that brings not only the stories of Henrietta Lacks and HeLa once more into line, but also catharsis to a family in sore need of it.” — The London Times (full review here)

    “[A] remarkable book” — London Review of Books (full review here, subscription required)

    More reviews available here.

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

    Movie Tie-in Bookcover Buy the Book The Movie

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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.