Wednesday, January 12, 2011

What are you reading, Sharon Carter?

My brother-in-law, Jim, recommended that I read The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot, and it turned out to be one of the best non-fiction books I have ever read. I enjoyed how Skloot intertwined so many facets of historical events. The story of Henrietta Lacks is informative in areas of rural poverty, racial prejudice (from both sides), medicine, science, and issues of informed consent. And Skloot tells everything with compassion.

Before reading this book I had never heard of HeLa cells (Henrietta Lacks), cells which were taken from Henrietta without her consent. Neither she nor her family learned of it for more than 25 years. Her cells were used for research into genes that helped develop drugs for treating polio, herpes, leukemia, influenza, hemophilia and Parkinson’s disease. They were also used in the study of lactose digestion, human longevity, the effects of atomic radiation, the effects of being sent to the moon, in vitro fertilization, cloning, and gene mapping. And the list goes on. Henrietta's cells were the first "immortal" human cells grown in culture; they are still alive today, though she has been dead for more than sixty years. The cells helped launch a multimillion-dollar industry that sells human biological materials and assisted in the birth of bioethics, but Henrietta's family has seen no profit from their use.

I would recommend The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks to anyone who enjoys history. It is not a medical book by any stretch. However, it does cover the material in an easy and understandable way.

I love to read and I find it very relaxing, so I usually have something going all the time. My husband just finished David Timms' new book "The Power of Blessing," so it will be my next read. Otherwise, I enjoy reading family stories for fun, fiction or non-fiction. When I am looking for inspiration, I love reading Proverbs.

Sharon Carter is Executive Assistant to Dr. Derry, President of Hope International University. She has served in this capacity for ten years.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot, Crown Publishers, February 5, 2010.

This book may be purchased at, Barnes and Noble, and Better World Books.

You may also find this book at your local library, by searching

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