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4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 4.00 (138,927 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Rebecca Skloot Narrator: Cassandra Campbell, Bahni Turpin Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: February 2010 ISBN: 9780307712516
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The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is a riveting account of a life that combines elements of racial issues, medicine and medical ethics as well as questions about the meaning of immortality and a family struggling to understand their mother's legacy.

Unbeknownst to her, Henrietta Lacks (1920-1951) changed the world through her contributions to biomedical research. Lacks was a poor African-American woman who was treated at Johns Hopkins Hospital beginning in 1951 for cervical cancer. She died that same year, but prior to her death her doctor removed two samples of Henrietta's cervix, a healthy part and a cancerous part, without her permission or even her knowledge.

Her doctor gave the cells to Dr. George Otto Gey, a biomedical researcher. These cells eventually became the HeLa (Henrietta Lacks) Immortal cell line. Prior to the use of Lacks' cells, cell lines used for research would die out within a few days and had to continuously be replaced. Henrietta Lacks' cells were the first that scientists could keep alive and grow. The HeLa cells are the most commonly used cells in research, and are still being used today.

According to author Rebecca Skloot, Henrietta Lacks' cells were vital to the development of the polio vaccine, cloning, gene mapping and in vitro fertilization. Her cells have been bought and sold millions of times the world over, and yet her children remain in poverty and cannot afford health insurance.

Skloot learned about the HeLa cells in a high school science class and her interest was piqued. After completing college, she spent the next decade researching Henrietta Lacks and in the process became close to the surviving members of the Lacks family, particularly Henrietta's eldest daughter, Deborah. The Lacks family remained impoverished and uneducated, and had trouble understanding the meaning of their mother's immortality, while also feeling that the doctors had stolen from them, in more ways than one.

Rebecca Skloot has a B.S. in biological sciences and an MFA in creative nonfiction. She has taught creative writing and science journalism at the University of Memphis, the University of Pittsburgh, and New York University, and has been published in several scientific journals and mainstream magazines. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is her first book, has won several awards and has been on the New York Times Best Seller List for two years. In 2011, the book won the Audie Award for Best Non-Fiction Audiobook.

Now a major motion picture from HBO® starring Oprah Winfrey and Rose Byrne.

Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. She was a poor Southern tobacco farmer who worked the same land as her slave ancestors, yet her cells—taken without her knowledge—became one of the most important tools in medicine. The first “immortal” human cells grown in culture, they are still alive today, though she has been dead for more than sixty years. If you could pile all HeLa cells ever grown onto a scale, they’d weigh more than 50 million metric tons—as much as a hundred Empire State Buildings. HeLa cells were vital for developing the polio vaccine; uncovered secrets of cancer, viruses, and the atom bomb’s effects; helped lead to important advances like in vitro fertilization, cloning, and gene mapping; and have been bought and sold by the billions.

Yet Henrietta Lacks remains virtually unknown, buried in an unmarked grave.

Now Rebecca Skloot takes us on an extraordinary journey, from the “colored” ward of Johns Hopkins Hospital in the 1950s to stark white laboratories with freezers full of HeLa cells; from Henrietta’s small, dying hometown of Clover, Virginia—a land of wooden slave quarters, faith healings, and voodoo—to East Baltimore today, where her children and grandchildren live and struggle with the legacy of her cells.

Henrietta’s family did not learn of her “immortality” until more than twenty years after her death, when scientists investigating HeLa began using her husband and children in research without informed consent. And though the cells had launched a multimillion-dollar industry that sells human biological materials, her family never saw any of the profits. As Rebecca Skloot so brilliantly shows, the story of the Lacks family—past and present—is inextricably connected to the dark history of experimentation on African Americans, the birth of bioethics, and the legal battles over whether we control the stuff we are made of.

Over the decade it took to uncover this story, Rebecca became enmeshed in the lives of the Lacks family—especially Henrietta’s daughter Deborah, who was devastated to learn about her mother’s cells. She was consumed with questions: Had scientists cloned her mother? Did it hurt her when researchers infected her cells with viruses and shot them into space? What happened to her sister, Elsie, who died in a mental institution at the age of fifteen? And if her mother was so important to medicine, why couldn’t her children afford health insurance? 
          
Intimate in feeling, astonishing in scope, and impossible to put down, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks captures the beauty and drama of scientific discovery, as well as its human consequences. Download and start listening now!

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Quotes & Awards

  • This remarkable story of how the cervical cells of the late Henrietta Lacks, a poor black woman, enabled subsequent discoveries from the polio vaccine to in vitro fertilization is extraordinary in itself; the added portrayal of Lacks's full life makes the story come alive with her humanity and the palpable relationship between race, science, and exploitation. Paula J. Giddings, author of Ida, A Sword Among Lions; Elizabeth A. Woodson 1922 Professor, Afro-American Studies, Smith College
  • “Skloot’s engaging, suspenseful book is an incredibly welcome addition for non-science wonks. Newsweek
  • Moving . . . The Economist
     
  • 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 Times Literary Supplement
     
  • A masterful work of nonfiction . . . a real page turner. Hanna Rosin, Slate
     
  • Skloot explores human consequences of the intersection of science and business, rescuing one of modern medicine’s inadvertent pioneers from an unmarked grave. US News & World Report
     
  • Remarkably balanced and nonjudgmental . . . The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks will leave readers reeling, plain and simple. It has a power and resonance rarely found in any genre, and is a subject that touches each of us, whether or not we are aware of our connection to Henrietta’s gift. The Oregonian
     
  • This is the perfect book. It reads like a novel but has the intellectual substance of a science textbook or a historical biography. The Daily Nebraskan
     
  • Illuminates what happens when medical research is conducted within an unequal health-care system and delivers an American narrative fraught with intrigue, tragedy, triumph, pathos, and redemption. MS.
  • A tremendous accomplishment —a tale of important science history that reads like a terrific novel. Kansas City Star
     
  • Good science writing isn’t easy, but Skloot makes it appear so. The Wichita Eagle
     
  • Encompasses nearly every hot-button issue currently surrounding the practice of medicine. Madison Capital Times
     
  • Defies easy categorization . . . as unpredictable as any pulp mystery and as strange as any science fiction. Willamette Week
     
  • An achievement . . . navigates both the technical and deeply personal sides of the HeLa story with clarity and care. The Portland Mercury
     
  • [A] remarkable book. London Review of Books 
  • “An essential reminder that all human cells grown in labs across the world, HeLa or otherwise, came from individuals with fears, desires, and stories to tell. Chemical & Engineering News 
     
  • Science journalist Skloot makes a remarkable debut with this multilayered story about ‘faith, science, journalism, and grace.’…Recalls Adrian Nicole LeBlanc’s Random Family…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)
  • #1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
    Entertainment Weekly #1 Nonfiction Book of the Year
    New Yorker Reviewers’ Favorite
    American Library Association Notable Book
    People Top Ten Book of the Year
    Washington Post Book World Top Ten Book of the Year
    Salon.com Best Book of the Year
    USA Today Ten Books We Loved Reading
    O, The Oprah Magazine Top Ten Book of the Year
    National Public Radio Best of the Bestsellers
    Boston Globe Best Nonfiction Book of the Year  
    Financial Times Nonfiction Favorite
    Los Angeles Times Critics’ Pick
    Bloomberg Top Nonfiction
    New York magazine Top Ten Book of the Year
    Slate.com Favorite Book of the Year
    TheRoot.com Top Ten Book of the Year
    Discover magazine 2010 Must-Read
    Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year
    Library Journal Top Ten Book of the Year
    Kirkus Reviews Best Nonfiction Book of the Year
    U.S. News & World Report Top Debate-Worthy Book
    Booklist Top of the List—Best Nonfiction Book
    New York Times/Science Bestseller list 

  • I could not put the book down . . . The story of modern medicine and bioethics—and, indeed, race relations—is refracted beautifully, and movingly. Entertainment Weekly
  • “Science writing is often just about ‘the facts.’ Skloot’s book, her first, is far deeper, braver, and more wonderful. New York Times Book Review

    The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is a triumph of science writing...one of the best nonfiction books I have ever read.
  • A real-life detective story, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks probes deeply into racial and ethical issues in medicine . . . The emotional impact of Skloot’s tale is intensified by its skillfully orchestrated counterpoint between two worlds. Nature
  • A jaw-dropping true story . . . raises urgent questions about race and research for ‘progress’ . . . an inspiring tale for all ages. Essence
  • This extraordinary account shows us that miracle workers, believers, and con artists populate hospitals as well as churches, and that even a science writer may find herself playing a central role in someone else’s mythology. The New Yorker
      
  • Has the epic scope of Greek drama, and a corresponding inability to be easily
    explained away.
    SF Weekly
     
  • One of the great medical biographies of our time. The Financial Times
      
  • Like any good scientific research, this beautifully crafted and painstakingly researched book raises nearly as many questions as it answers . . . In a time when it’s fashionable to demonize scientists, Skloot generously does not pin any sins to the lapels of the researchers. She just lets them be human . . . [and] challenges much of what we believe of ethics, tissue ownership, and humanity. Science
      
  • Indelible . . . The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is a heroic work of cultural and medical journalism. Laura Miller, Salon.com
      
  • No dead woman has done more for the living . . . a fascinating, harrowing, necessary book. Hilary Mantel, The Guardian (U.K.)
     
  • The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks does more than one book ought to be able to do. Dallas Morning News
  • Above all it is a human story of redemption for a family, torn by loss, and for a writer with a vision that would not let go. Boston Globe
  • Journalist Rebecca Skloot’s history of the miraculous cells reveals deep injustices in U.S. medical research. TIME
     
  • The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is a fascinating look at the woman whose cultured cells—the first to grow and survive indefinitely, harvested without compensation or consent—have become essential to modern medicine. Vogue
     
  • Blows away the notion that science writing must be the literary equivalent to Ambien. Chicago Tribune
     
  • Seldom do you read a book that is science, social history, and a page turner. British Medical Journal
     
  • Thrilling and original nonfiction that refuses to be shoehorned into anything as trivial as a genre. It is equal parts popular science, historical biography, and detective novel. Ed Yong, DISCOVER.COM
     
  • Best book I’ve read in years. Brian Sullivan, Fox Business Network
  • Thanks to Rebecca Skloot, we may now remember Henrietta—who she was, how she lived, how she died. The New Republic
     
  • We need more writers like Rebecca Skloot. E.O.Wilson

  • One of the most graceful and moving nonfiction books I’ve read in a very long time…'The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks'…floods over you like a narrative dam break, as if someone had managed to distill and purify the more addictive qualities of 'Erin Brockovich,' 'Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil' and 'The Andromeda Strain.'…it feels like the book Ms. Skloot was born to write. It signals the arrival of a raw but quite real talent. Dwight Garner, The New York Times
  • Skloot's vivid account begins with the life of Henrietta Lacks, who comes fully alive on the page…'Immortal Life' reads like a novel. Eric Roston, The Washington Post
  • “Gripping…by turns heartbreaking, funny and unsettling…raises troubling questions about the way Mrs. Lacks and her family were treated by researchers and about whether patients should control or have financial claims on tissue removed from their bodies. Denise Grady, New York Times
  • The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks’’ is a fascinating read and a ringing success. It is a well-written, carefully-researched, complex saga of medical research, bioethics, and race in America. Above all it is a human story of redemption for a family, torn by loss, and for a writer with a vision that would not let go. Douglas Whynott, The Boston Globe
  • Riveting...raises important questions about medical ethics...It's an amazing story...Deeply chilling... Whether those uncountable HeLa cells are a miracle or a violation, Skloot tells their fascinating story at last with skill, insight and compassion Colette Bancroft, St. Petersburg Times
  • The history of HeLa is a rare and powerful combination of race, class, gender, medicine, bioethics, and intellectual property; far more rare is the writer than can so clearly fuse those disparate threads into a personal story so rich and compelling. Rebecca Skloot has crafted a unique piece of science journalism that is impossible to put down—or to forget. Seed magazine
  • No one can say exactly where Henrietta Lacks is buried: during the many years Rebecca Skloot spent working on this book, even Lacks’s hometown of Clover, Virginia, disappeared. But that did not stop Skloot in her quest to exhume, and resurrect, the story of her heroine and her family. What this important, invigorating book lays bare is how easily science can do wrong, especially to the poor. The issues evoked here are giant: who owns our bodies, the use and misuse of medical authority, the unhealed wounds of slavery ... and Skloot, with clarity and compassion, helps us take the long view. This is exactly the sort of story that books were made to tell—thorough, detailed, quietly passionate, and full of revelation. TED CONOVER, author of Newjack and The Routes of Man
  • It’s extremely rare when a reporter’s passion finds its match in a story. Rarer still when the people in that story courageously join that reporter in the search for what we most need to know about ourselves. When this occurs with a moral journalist who is also a true writer, a human being with a heart capable of holding all of life’s damage and joy, the stars have aligned. This is an extraordinary gift of a book, beautiful and devastating—a work of outstanding literary reportage. Read it! It’s the best you will find in many many years. ADRIAN NICOLE LEBLANC, author of Random Family
  • The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks brings to mind the work of Philip K. Dick and Edgar Allan Poe. But this tale is true. Rebecca Skloot explores the racism and greed, the idealism and faith in science that helped to save thousands of lives but nearly destroyed a family. This is an extraordinary book, haunting and beautifully told. ERIC SCHLOSSER, author of Fast Food Nation 
  • Skloot’s book is wonderful -- deeply felt, gracefully written, sharply reported. It is a story about science but, much more, about life. SUSAN ORLEAN, author of The Orchid Thief
  • This is a science biography like the world has never seen. What if one of the great American women of modern science and medicine--whose contribution underlay historic discoveries in genetics, the treatment and prevention of disease, reproduction, and the unraveling of the human genome--was a self-effacing African-American tobacco farmer from the Deep South? A devoted mother of five who was escorted briskly to the Jim Crow section of Johns Hopkins for her cancer treatments? What if the untold millions of scientists, doctors, and patients enriched and healed by her gift never, to this day, knew her name? What if her contribution was made without her knowledge or permission? Ladies and gentlemen, meet Henrietta Lacks. Chances are, at the level of your DNA, your inoculations, your physical health and microscopic well-being, you’ve already been introduced. MELISSA FAY GREENE, author of Praying for Sheetrock and There Is No Me Without You
  • Heartbreaking and powerful, unsettling yet compelling, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is a richly textured story of the hidden costs of scientific progress. Deftly weaving together history, journalism and biography, Rebecca Skloot?s sensitive account tells of the enduring, deeply personal sacrifice of this African American woman and her family and, at long last, restores a human face to the cell line that propelled 20th century biomedicine. A stunning illustration of how race, gender and disease intersect to produce a unique form of social vulnerability, this is a poignant, necessary and brilliant book. ALONDRA NELSON, Columbia University; editor of Technicolor: Race, Technology and Everyday Life
  • Rebecca Skloot has written a marvelous book so original that it defies easy description. She traces the surreal journey that a tiny patch of cells belonging to Henrietta Lacks’s body took to the forefront of science. At the same time, she tells the story of Lacks and her family—wrestling the storms of the late twentieth century in America—with rich detail, wit, and humanity. The more we read, the more we realize that these are not two separate stories, but one tapestry. It’s part The Wire, part The Lives of the Cell, and all fascinating. CARL ZIMMER, author of Microcosm
      
  • If virtues could be cultured like cells, Rebecca Skloot’s would be a fine place to start¾a rare combination of compassion, courage, wisdom, and intelligence. This book is extraordinary. As a writer and a human being, Skloot stands way, way out there ahead of the pack. MARY ROACH, author of Stiff and Bonk
  • The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks takes the reader on a remarkable journey—compassionate, troubling, funny, smart—and irresistible. Along the way, Rebecca Skloot will change the way you see medical science and lead you to wonder who we should value more—the researcher or the research subject? Ethically fascinating and completely engaging—I couldn’t recommend it more. DEBORAH BLUM, author of The Poisoner’s Handbook and The Monkey Wars and the Helen Firstbrook Franklin professor of journalism at the University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • This remarkable story of how the cervical cells of the late Henrietta Lacks, a poor black woman, enabled subsequent discoveries from the polio vaccine to in vitro fertilization is extraordinary in itself; the added portrayal of Lacks's full life makes the story come alive with her humanity and the palpable relationship between race, science, and exploitation.—PAULA J. GIDDINGS, author of Ida, A Sword Among Lions; Elizabeth A. Woodson 1922 Professor, Afro-American Studies, Smith College
  • Rebecca Skloot’s steadfast commitment to illuminating the life and contribution of Henrietta Lacks, one of the many vulnerable subjects used for scientific advancement, and the subsequent impact on her family is a testament to the power of solid investigative journalism. Her deeply compelling account of one family’s long and troubled relationship with America’s vast medical-industrial complex is sure to become a cherished classic. ALLEN M. HORNBLUM, author of Acres of Skin and Sentenced to Science
  • Writing with a novelist’s artistry, a biologist’s expertise, and the zeal of an investigative reporter, Skloot tells a truly astonishing story of racism and poverty, science and conscience, spirituality and family driven by a galvanizing inquiry into the sanctity of the body and the very nature of the life force. BOOKLIST (starred review)
  • Extraordinary . . . 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 (U.K.)
     
  • Brings the Lacks family alive . . . gives Henrietta Lacks another kind of immortality—this one through the discipline of good writing. Baltimore Sun
  • A work of both heart and mind, driven by the author’s passion for the story, which is as endlessly renewable as HeLa cells. Los Angeles Times
     
  • In this gripping, vibrant book, Rebecca Skloot looks beyond the scientific marvels to explore the ethical issues behind a discovery that may have saved your life. Mother Jones
     
  • More than ten years in the making, it feels like the book Ms. Skloot was born to write . . . Skloot, a young science journalist and an indefatigable researcher, writes about Henrietta Lacks and her impact on modern medicine from almost every conceivable angle and manages to make all of them fascinating . . . a searching moral inquiry into greed and blinkered lives . . . packed with memorable characters. Dwight Garner, New York Times, Top Ten Book of 2010
     
  • Astonishing . . .No matter how much you may know about basic biology, you will be amazed by this book. The Journal of Clinical Investigation
  • Rebecca Skloot did her job, and she did it expertly . . . A riveting narrative that is wholly original. THEROOT.COM
     
  • Graceful . . . I can’t think of a better way to capture the corrosive effects of ethical transgressions in medical research. It’s a heartbreaking story, beautifully rendered. The Lancet
     
  • Read this . . . By letting the Lackses be people, and by putting them in the center of the history, Skloot turns just another tale about the march of progress into a complicated portrait of the interaction between science and human lives. —BOINGBOING.NET
     
  • [A] remarkable and moving book . . . a vivid portrait of Lacks that should be as abiding as her cells. The Times (U.K.)
  • “I can’t imagine a better tale. A detective story that’s at once mythically large and painfully intimate. I highly recommend this book. Jad Abumrad, Radiolab
     
  • Skloot is a terrific popularizer of medical science, guiding readers through this dense material with a light and entertaining touch. The Globe and Mail (Canada)
     
  • A rare and powerful combination of race, class, gender,medicine, bioethics, and intellectual property; far more rare is the writer that can so clearly fuse those disparate threads into a personal story so rich and compelling. Seed
     
  • Powerful story . . . I feel moved even to say on behalf of the thousands of anonymous black men and women who’ve been experimented on for medical purposes, thank you. Thank you for writing this important book. Kali-AhsetAmen, Radio Diaspora
     
  • The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is a remarkable feat of investigative journalism and a moving work of narrative nonfiction that reads with the vividness and urgency of fiction. It also raises sometimes uncomfortable questions with no clear-cut answers about whether people should be remunerated for their physical, genetic contributions to research and about the role of profit in science. National Public Radio
     
  • An indelible, marvelous story as powerful as those cells. Philadelphia Inquirer
     
  • As much an act of justice as one of journalism. Seattle Times
     
  • A stunning book . . . surely the definitive work on the subject. The Independent(U.K.)
     
  • “Journalist Rebecca Skloot’s history of the miraculous cells reveals deep injustices in US medical research.”

    Time

  • “[A] multilayered narrative of race, class, and family.”

    O, The Oprah Magazine

  • “The story of modern medicine and bioethics—and, indeed, race relations—is refracted beautifully and movingly.”

    Entertainment Weekly

  • “Skloot’s engaging, suspenseful book is an incredibly welcome addition for non-science wonks.”

    Newsweek

  • The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is a fascinating look at the woman whose cultured cells—the first to grow and survive indefinitely, harvested without compensation or consent—have become essential to modern medicine.” 

    Vogue

  • “This extraordinary account shows us that miracle workers, believers, and con artists populate hospitals as well as churches, and that even a science writer may find herself playing a central role in someone else’s mythology.”

    New Yorker

  • “Science writing is often just about ‘the facts.’ Skloot’s book, her first, is far deeper, braver, and more wonderful.” 

    New York Times Book Review

  • “More than ten years in the making, it feels like the book Ms. Skloot was born to write.”

    New York Times

  • “A work of both heart and mind, driven by the author’s passion for the story, which is as endlessly renewable as HeLa cells.”

    Los Angeles Times

  • “One of the great medical biographies of our time.”

    Financial Times (London)

  • “A deftly crafted investigation of a social wrong committed by the medical establishment, as well as the scientific and medical miracles to which it led.” 

    Washington Post

  • “Riveting…a tour-de-force debut.” 

    Chicago Sun-Times

  • “Above all it is a human story of redemption for a family, torn by loss, and for a writer with a vision that would not let go.”

    Boston Globe

  • “Beautifully crafted and painstakingly researched.”

    Science

  • “Extraordinary.”

    Telegraph (London)

  • “No dead woman has done more for the living…a fascinating, harrowing, necessary book.”

    Guardian (London)

  • “A real-life detective story, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks probes deeply into racial and ethical issues in medicine…The emotional impact of Skloot’s tale is intensified by its skillfully orchestrated counterpoint between two worlds.”

    Nature

  • “Indelible…The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is a heroic work of cultural and medical journalism.” 

    Salon.com

  • “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is a triumph of science writing...one of the best nonfiction books I have ever read.”

    Wired.com

  • “Moving.”

    Economist

  • “Skloot is a terrific popularizer of medical science, guiding readers through this dense material with a light and entertaining touch.”

    Globe and Mail (Toronto)

  • “Blows away the notion that science writing must be the literary equivalent to Ambien.”

    Chicago Tribune

  • “[A] remarkable and moving book…a vivid portrait of Lacks that should be as abiding as her cells.”

    Times (London)

  • “A stunning book…surely the definitive work on the subject.”

    Independent (London)

  • “[A] remarkable book.”

    London Review of Books

  • “Seldom do you read a book that is science, social history, and a page turner.” 

    British Medical Journal

  • “An inspiring tale for all ages.” 

    Essence

  • “A remarkable feat of investigative journalism and a moving work of narrative nonfiction that reads with the vividness and urgency of fiction.”

    National Public Radio

  • “As much an act of justice as one of journalism.” 

    Seattle Times

  • “An indelible, marvelous story as powerful as those cells.” 

    Philadelphia Inquirer

  • “Brings the Lacks family alive…[and] gives Henrietta Lacks another kind of immortality—this one through the discipline of good writing.”

    Baltimore Sun

  • “Has the epic scope of Greek drama, and a corresponding inability to be easily explained away.”

    SF Weekly

  • “Interestingly, Caucasian Cassandra Campbell admirably portrays African American Lacks and her associates, while only the small part of Lacks’ 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. A 2011 Audie Award Winner.”

    AudioFile

  • A New York Times Bestseller
  • A USA Today Bestseller
  • Winner of the 2011 Audie Award for Nonfiction
  • An ALA Notable Book for Nonfiction in 2010
  • Winner of the 2011 Ambassador Book Award
  • An 2010 Entertainment Weekly Best Book
  • A 2010 People Magazine Best Book
  • A 2010 Washington Post Top 10 Book
  • A 2010 Salon Magazine Best Book of the Year
  • A 2010 New York Magazine Top 10 Books
  • Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books, Best Nonfiction 2010
  • A 2010 Publishers Weekly Best Book for Nonfiction
  • A 2010 Booklist Top of the List Pick
  • A Washington Post Bestseller
  • A 2011 RUSA Notable Book for Nonfiction
  • New York Times Book Review 100 Notable Books for Nonfiction, 2010
  • A 2010 O Magazine Best Book for Nonfiction
  • Winner of the 2010 Wellcome Trust Book Prize for Nonfiction
  • Winner of the 2010 Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize for Nonfiction
  • A 2010 Los Angeles Times Book Prize Nominee for Science & Technology

Listener Opinions

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Jloanmom | 2/14/2014

    " I think this could have been better with more character development and less medical history. The significance and use of Henrietta's cells is addressed over and over, while the family story is presented in bits and pieces. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Janey Allen | 2/4/2014

    " I loved this book. I thought it was well written and reads like fiction, but is non-fiction. It raised so many issues and I found it intriguing. This is one I would love to add to my personal library. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Polly | 2/4/2014

    " I found the information in this book fascinating. I had heard of HeLa cells but had absolutely no idea about the back story. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Everet Seeley | 2/3/2014

    " WOW! This book is a must read about a lady (Heneretta Lacks) whose cells were taken from her without her knowledge in 1951 and used for medical research resulting in the saving of thousands of lives over the years. Even though billions of her cells have been bought and sold neither her nor her family were ever compensated and in fact her family still cannot afford health insurance. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Gloria Jefferies | 1/20/2014

    " The Lacks family shares a lot with all; we just don't know where are cells are. They are so not alone. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Dee | 1/9/2014

    " Fascinating book about the woman who made it possible for scientists to study the behavior of cancer cells and find treatments for common and not so common illnesses. Rebecca Skloot takes us into this woman's life through her children, her doctors, and the institutions and mindsets of a generation long past. She makes it easy to follow the back and forth of the story with a timeline at the beginning of each chapter. I found this book to be interesting, heart breaking, uplifting, and educational. It's a bit of a look at the best, and worst, of mankind. If you enjoyed it I'd recommend "The Emperor of All Maladies" by Siddhartha Mukherjee. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Debbie Beceiro | 1/2/2014

    " This was such an interesting and informative read. It is the true story of a poor, southern, black woman who went for treatment at John Hopkins for cervical cancer. Since she was treated before informed consent, she became an unwitting donor of these blood cells, better known as HeLa cells. These cells have had a major impact on mankind and the advancement of medicine, and continue to do so. Althouh, HeLa cells are still alive today, Henrietta remains virtually unknown. This books tells her story. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Susan Dames | 1/1/2014

    " This was interesting but hard to follow a good bit of the time. It's an amazing account though! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Bonney Freeman Hughes | 12/26/2013

    " Really good nonfiction that draws you in, especially after the first half. I found it fascinating because I've heard of HeLa cells for decades - probably since I started studying biology in college, but I never knew anything about the woman or the family behind the cells. Rebecca Skloot put a decade's worth of research and writing into this compelling story. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Karen Whitehead | 12/25/2013

    " This is a really interesting journalistic endeavour. The writing is very good and the book covers medical science, black history and sociology. As if the characters weren't compelling enough, the author's own sensibilities creep into the story, which makes it even more vivid. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Bette | 12/24/2013

    " Completely fascinating book. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Irina | 12/20/2013

    " Fantastic read! Informative and yet very lyrical. Science bound by human story, most telling of effects progress brings in its wake. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Katie | 12/20/2013

    " One of the most fascinating, heartbreaking and eye-opening books I've ever read. Everyone should read this. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Anna | 12/16/2013

    " Very well written and amazing true story. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Patricia | 12/2/2013

    " Very interesting that this happened in my lifetime but I had no knowledge of it. Fascinating that the life of one person could result in so much good for so many. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kathyleistner Leistner | 11/25/2013

    " So glad I read this book. Skloot had a lot of patience to put together so much information. Raises questions of ethics that will be discussed for decades. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jaclyn | 11/4/2013

    " Fascinating! Definitely brought up much to contemplate in the way of science and ethics. A very compelling story I couldn't put down! "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Lorrie Boydston | 9/30/2013

    " Loved this! A complex, interesting story that I was surprised to finish. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Leata Holloway | 9/24/2013

    " To me, this book is the perfect example of what science writing should be: understandable to a non-scientist but actually scientific. Factual, but creative. I thought this was one of the most touching books I'd ever read. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kira | 8/19/2013

    " Very interesting read! It is a nonfiction but reads like a novel. You really feel for the characters and the family. I learned a lot about cells and cancer. Nothing scares me more! "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Annette Cook | 6/9/2013

    " Seldom have I read a book that was more thought provoking. The ethical questions surrounding cellular research and the rights of the "donors" of the tissues (and their families) involved is a slippery slope with no clear solutions. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Rob | 5/19/2013

    " Thoroughly enjoyed and nicely written. You sympathize for the Lacks family as well as appreciate all the scientific advances made possible because of the HeLa cells. I recommend this book to anyone interested in science or health professions. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Mark Heller | 3/8/2013

    " I would have given it a higher rating, but the Deborah character was way too paranoid. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Deana Chapman | 12/4/2012

    " Very interesting book. Really presented an ethical dilemma. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Candy Thomas | 9/5/2012

    " I had no idea--very eye-opening regarding past (and some still current) medical practices. The story is told in such a way as to make the science info involved accessible even to those of us who are not as strong in that area. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Diana Maslowski | 7/10/2012

    " Barbaric cervical cancer treatments and how we came to have our current cell line. Fascinating scientific read with a heart "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kristen | 10/23/2011

    " Not my usual genre, but read on a recommendation from a friend. Really liked the book, and it is an amazing story. Not a happy story, but very well done. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Carrie Sanders-hartley | 9/10/2011

    " Loved the history and science. Obviously well researched. It was hard to find the family likeable even though I felt a lot of compassion for their situation. In the end, the cells belong to the science and the science belongs to the cells. Amazing! "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Ruth | 9/7/2011

    " Loved this. Journalistic and compelling. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Ann | 5/25/2011

    " The medical side of this book was more engaging than the actual people involved. Good history of how views of medicine have changed regarding ownership of "human genes and gene lines". "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Judy | 5/25/2011

    " Well researched and easy to read, even with all the science facts-learned a lot. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Patricia | 5/23/2011

    " So far the book is amazing....I am a little past half the book!!! I would totally suggest this book!!! "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Rita | 5/23/2011

    " Here is another book I could not put down. What a great tribute to Henrietta Lacks. If you are interested in science, racism, and medical ethics, you should read this book. Even if you are not interested, read this book. It is well researched and well written. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Stacey | 5/23/2011

    " Simply amazing. My favorite of the year. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 carly | 5/22/2011

    " non-fiction at its best! true life really is stranger than fiction. i loved this. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kimberly | 5/22/2011

    " Fascinating story. Raises a lot of ethical and moral questions. My only complaint is that I felt like it got a little long and in some parts was a bit redundant. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Lindsey | 5/22/2011

    " Amazing book, thanks for the tip Bri "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Heather | 5/21/2011

    " WOW!! This book is awesome. Great writing, great research, WONDERFUL topic! "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Louise | 5/21/2011

    " I loved this book. Read it with my book club and it is a good discussion book and amazing story about Hela cells and where they came from and how they are used. Science is weaved together with the story of Henrietta Lacks and her family. "

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About the Author
Author Rebecca Skloot

Rebecca Skloot is an award-winning science writer whose work has appeared in the New York Times Magazine; O, The Oprah Magazine; Discover; and many others. She is coeditor of The Best American Science Writing 2011 and has worked as a correspondent for NPR’s Radiolab and PBS’s Nova ScienceNOW. She was named one of five surprising leaders of 2010 by the Washington Post. Her debut book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, took more than a decade to research and write, and instantly became a New York Times bestseller. It was chosen as a best book of 2010 by more than sixty media outlets, including Entertainment Weekly, People, and the New York Times. Skloot is the founder and president of The Henrietta Lacks Foundation. She has a BS in biological sciences and an MFA in creative nonfiction. She has taught creative writing and science journalism at the University of Memphis, the University of Pittsburgh, and New York University. She currently lives in Chicago.

About the Narrators

Cassandra Campbell, Audie Award–nominated narrator and winner of several Earphones Awards, has performed in regional theaters across the country and in several off-Broadway shows at the Public Theater and the Mint Theater. In addition to narrating audiobooks, acting, and directing, she is a commercial and documentary voice-over artist.

Bahni Turpin has won numerous AudioFile Earphones Awards and three prestigious Audie Awards for her audiobook narrations, and Publishers Weekly magazine named her Narrator of the Year for 2016. She is an ensemble member of the Cornerstone Theater Company in Los Angeles. She has guest starred in many television series, including NYPD Blue, Law & Order, Six Feet Under, Cold Case, What about Brian, and The Comeback. Film credits include Brokedown Palace, Crossroads, and Daughters of the Dust. She is also a member of the recording cast of The Help, which won numerous awards.