This non-fiction book by Rebecca Skloot is one of the most fascinating books I’ve ever read. If science and people interest you then this is a no brainer. The story is about a black woman named Henrietta Lacks (HeLa) whose cells turned out to be exactly what science needed, a miracle. Her cells (taken from her while she was being treated for cervical cancer) have been used in “developing the polio vaccine; uncovered secrets of cancer, viruses and the atom bomb’s effects,” to only name a few.
I thought it was very clever and respectful of the author to bring the Lacks family into the conversation. It’s important to remind us that the cells that have helped advance science in such an incredible way belonged to a person. It usually takes me a long time to get through a non-fiction book but it is so incredibly interesting that it was basically impossible to put down.
Skloot does not fill the book with science jargon that most people would not understand, which to me is very important when reading non-fiction. I want to learn something that will stick with me forever without having to read things that I will never remember once the book is finished. She intertwines the book with background on the doctors and researchers (mostly researchers) that took part in figuring out how to use her cells, along with introducing ethical dilemmas, and a lot of other useful scientific information to help us understand exactly how the cells have made an impact in our lives.
We should all be grateful for Henrietta Lacks.
Bonus: I just watched a video about the HeLa cells on YouTube in case you need something to whet your appetite. It’s done by the people of Ted talks and is 4 minutes and 26 seconds long.