Great Girls Talk Books: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

It’s so nice to be able to sit with a group of intelligent women and talk, whether it’s about books or not.

Last month was the first meeting of a new book club Books, Booze, & Broads (BBB) hosted by my former professor and friend.

I’ve always wanted to join a book club…clearly I like books and I like discussing them.

The book club reads and discusses books by women or about women.

Last months’ selection was The Immortal life of Henrietta Lacks. Rebecca Skloot, a news writer works to uncover the story behind a black woman whose cancer cells changed the practice of science and ultimately expanded our knowledge and coaxed cures and breakthroughs. During examinations for diagnoses and treatment, Henrietta Lack’s cells were removed from her body without her or her family’s knowledge or permission. Those cells were cultured and eventually used all over the world unbeknownst to her family. This is a story of ethics, of scientific discovery, and mostly the story of one woman’s search to fill in the missing pieces of her mother’s story.

I can’t say I read much nonfiction but that may change now. I’ve found that there is something special about reading the lives of real people, about trying to feel them out.

The girls all had strong reactions to the book and I think we discussed every aspect through and through, Exhausting and good. Next time I’ll write down my own thoughts and then try to compare them with the group as time and a few hours around a cozy table have mashed them together a bit.

This month we’re going to discuss I’ll Fly Away: Further Testimonies from Women of York Prison edited by Wally Lamb. It is Lamb’s second collection of essays written by participants in his writing workshop. I’ve started reading these women’s essays and I’m already pulled in by their simplicity and their depth. Of course I couldn’t resist and picked up the first volume as well.

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