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February 21, 2024
11:00 AM - 12:00 PM
Ashland Public Library
66 Front Street

Ashland, MA 01721
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Bio/Memoir Book Club: Read 'The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks' *For Adults

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

For this month's Biography/Memoir Book Club we'll be discussing "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks" by Rebecca Skloot.

Join the conversation as we discuss The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, "a story of modern medicine, bioethics and race relations.

Henrietta Lacks was a poor Southern tobacco farmer whose cells were taken without her knowledge and became one of the most important tools in medicine. The first 'immortal' human cells grown in culture, which are still alive today, though she has been dead for more than sixty years and remains virtually unknown, buried in an unmarked grave. HeLa(short for Henrietta Lacks) cells were vital for developing the polio vaccine; uncovered secrets of cancer, viruses; helped lead to important advances in cloning, in vitro fertilization, and gene mapping. 

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 multi million dollar industry, her family never saw any of the profits nor could her children afford health insurance. 

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. 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."

We'll have copies of the book at the library for you to borrow or you can order it from our online catalog.

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