The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

  • Share this:
Share with a friend
Sign into your email account to send this page to a friend:
Outlook or Apple Mail
or other default program
See all books on Browse fiction, check out our biographies, or find a great novel or children's book. also carries textbooks for less.
  • Browse Related Products

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

Format:  Paperback,

381 pages

Publisher: Random House Inc

Publish Date: Mar 2011

ISBN-13: 9781400052189

ISBN-10: 1400052181

Buy from Walmart

Shipping & Pickup
List Price: $16.00
You Save: $6.96 (44%)

In stock for:

  • Also in stores
  • Store information not available.

 Buy from Marketplace

Shipping & Additional Information

Book Information

The following content was provided by the publisher.
Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. She was a poor Southern tobacco farmer who worked the same land as her slave ancestors, yet her cells-taken without her knowledge-became one of the most important tools in medicine. The first "immortal" human cells grown in culture, they are still alive today, though she has been dead for more than sixty years. If you could pile all HeLa cells ever grown onto a scale, they'd weigh more than 50 million metric tons-as much as a hundred Empire State Buildings. HeLa cells were vital for developing the polio vaccine; uncovered secrets of cancer, viruses, and the atom bomb's effects; helped lead to important advances like in vitro fertilization, cloning, and gene mapping; and have been bought and sold by the billions. Yet Henrietta Lacks remains virtually unknown, buried in an unmarked grave. Now Rebecca Skloot takes us on an extraordinary journey, from the "colored" ward of Johns Hopkins Hospital in the 1950s to stark white laboratories with freezers full of HeLa cells; from Henrietta's small, dying hometown of Clover, Virginia-a land of wooden slave quarters, faith healings, and voodoo-to East Baltimore today, where her children and grandchildren live and struggle with the legacy of her cells. 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 multimillion-dollar industry that sells human biological materials, her family never saw any of the profits. 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. Over the decade it took to uncover this story, Rebecca became enmeshed


Publisher: Random House Inc
Publish Date: Mar 2011
ISBN-13: 9781400052189
ISBN-10: 1400052181
Format: Paperback
Number of Pages: 381
Shipping Weight (in pounds): 0.95
Product in Inches (L x W x H): 5.25 x 8.0 x 1.25

Chapter outline

A Few Words About This Book
Prologue: The Woman in the Photograph
Deborah's Voice
The Exam … 1951
Clover … 1920-1942
Diagnosis and Treatment … 1951
The Birth of HeLa … 1951
Blackness Be Spreadin All Inside … 1951
Lady's on the Phone … 1999
The Death and Life of Cell Culture … 1951
A Miserable Specimen … 1951
Turner Station … 1999
The Other Side of the Tracks … 1999
The Devil of Pain Itself … 1951
The Storm … 1951
The HeLa Factory … 1951-1953
Helen Lane … 1953-1954
Too Young to Remember … 1951-1965
Spending Eternity in the Same Place … 1999
Illegal, Immoral, and Deplorable … 1954-1966
Strangest Hybrid … 1960-1966
The Most Critical Time on This Earth Is Now … 1966-1973
The HeLa Bomb … 1966
Night Doctors … 2000
The Fame She So Richly Deserves … 1970-1973
It's Alive … 1973-1974
Least They Can Do … 1975
Who Told You You Could Sell My Spleen? … 1976-1988
Breach of Privacy … 1980-1985
The Secret of Immortality … 1984-1995
After London … 1996-1999
A Village of Henriettas … 2000
Zakariyya … 2000
Hela, Goddess of Death … 2000-2001
All That's My Mother … 2001
The Hospital for the Negro Insane … 2001
The Medical Records … 2001
Soul Cleansing … 2001
Heavenly Bodies … 2001
Nothing to Be Scared About … 2001
The Long Road to Clover … 2009
Where They Are Now
About the Henrietta Lacks Foundation
Cast of Characters
Reading Group Guide


Review by Library Journal (2009-12-01)

This distinctive work skillfully puts a human face on the bio ethical questions surrounding the HeLa cell line. Henrietta Lacks, an African American mother of five, was undergoing treatment for cancer at Johns Hopkins University in 1951 when tissue samples were removed without her knowledge or permission and used to create HeLa, the first "immortal" cell line. HeLa has been sold around the world and used in countless medical research applications, including the development of the polio vaccine.

Science writer Skloot, who worked on this book for ten years, entwines Lacks's biography, the development of the HeLa cell line, and her own story of building a relationship with Lacks's children. Full of dialog and vivid detail, this reads like a novel, but the science behind the story is also deftly handled.

Verdict: While there are other titles on this controversy (e.g., Michael Gold's A Conspiracy of Cells: One Woman's Immortal Legacy-and the Medical Scandal It Caused), this is the most compelling account for general readers, especially those interested in questions of medical research ethics. Highly recommended.

[See Skloot's essay, p. 126; Prepub Alert, LJ 11/1/09.] - Carla Lee, Univ. of Virginia Lib., Charlottesville

(c). Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Awards and Recognitions

  • New York Times Notable Books of the Year, 2010 (United States)
  • Los Angeles Times Book Prizes, 2010 (United States)
  • American Library Association Notable Books, 2011 (United States)
  • Audie Award, 2011 (United States)
  • Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers Award, 2010 (United States)
  • Black-Eyed Susan Book Award, 2012 - 2013 (United States)
  • Ambassador Book Awards, 2011 (United States)
  • Publishers Weekly Best Books of the Year, 2010 (United States)
  • Library Journal Best Books of the Year, 2010 (United States)

Customer Product Reviews

Rated 5 out of 5★ by 2reviewers.
Rated 5 out of 5★ by Great book! Didn't think so by the cover but I can't keep my eyes out of it. 09/06/2011
See All Reviews

Gifting Plans

Financing Offers

Make the most of your shopping experience with the Walmart® MasterCard® or Walmart Credit Card.

Save $25 when you open a Walmart® Credit Card and spend $75 today.*

*Offer subject to credit approval

Learn More or Apply Now