Southwest Book Club Meets April 19
The Southwest Book Club will meet on Tuesday, April 19 at 7:00 p.m. at the Southwest Library to discuss The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. Intertwining science, racial politics and a family's painful history, Skloot tells the story of Henrietta Lacks, a poor Southern tobacco farmer. During medical treatment for cancer her cells were taken for testing without her and her family's knowledge. Her "immortal" cell line which enabled discoveries in cancer research, in vitro fertilization and gene mapping is still alive 60 years after her death.
Anyone age 18 or older is welcome to attend. The book club meets monthly at the Southwest Branch Library. For more information, please call 407.835.7323 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Copies of this book may be reserved for home delivery or location pick-up at http://www.ocls.info
For more information, please call 407.835.7323 or email email@example.com
If you are unable to attend the meeting or you would like to join our discussion, you can share your thoughts or respond to the discussion questions below. Simply click "Comments" located at the bottom of this post. Join the discussion!
1. As much as this book is about Henrietta Lacks, it is also about Deborah learning of the mother she barely knew, while also finding out the truth about her sister, Elsie. Imagine discovering similar information about one of your family members. How would you react? What questions would you ask?
2. In a review for the New York Times, Dwight Garner writes, "Ms. Skloot is a memorable character herself. She never intrudes on the narrative, but she takes us along with her on her reporting." How would the story have been different if she had not been a part of it? What do you think would have happened to scenes like the faith healing on page 289? Are there other scenes you can think of where her presence made a difference? Why do you think she decided to include herself in the story?
3. As a journalist, Skloot is careful to present the encounter between the Lacks family and the world of medicine without taking sides. Since readers bring their own experiences and opinions to the text, some may feel she took the scientists' side, while others may feel she took the family's side.What are your feelings about this? Does your opinion fall on one side or the other, or somewhere in the middle, and why?
4. Deborah says, "But I always have thought it was strange, if our mother cells done so much for medicine, how come
her family can't afford to see no doctors? Don't make no sense" (page 9). Should the family be financially compensated for the HeLa cells? If so, who do you believe that money should come from? Do you feel the Lackses deserve health insurance even though they can't afford it? How would you respond if you were in their situation?
5. On page 261, Deborah and Zakariyya visit Lengauer's lab and see the cells for the first time. How is their Lengauer different from the previous interactions the family had with representatives of Johns Hopkins? Why do you think
it is so different? What does the way Deborah and Zakariyya interact with their mother's cells tell you about their feelings for her?
6. Reflect upon Henrietta's life: What challenges did she and her family face? What do you think their greatest strengths were? Consider the progression of Henrietta's cancer in the last eight months between her diagnosis and death. How did she face death? What do you think that says about the type of person she was?
Discussion questions were obtained from http://rebeccaskloot.com/.