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Book Club: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Chapters 13-15

young adult cancer book club

Welcome to the comments and discussion of the Young Adult Cancer Book Club!  We are reading The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot! Catch up on Chapters 1-3, Chapters 4-6, Chapters 7-9, and Chapters 10-12.

Let’s get started!

Chapter 13.  The HeLa Factory.  1951-1953.

The HeLa Factory and How It Changed the World would be a better name for this chapter.  The mass production of HeLa cells led to so much scientific advancement, this chapter just barely touches on some of them.  A polio vaccine, shipping of cells, the field of virology, standardization of culture media and tissue culture equipment, human genetics, and so much more experienced huge advancements during this time thanks to HeLa.  “HeLa was a workhorse:  it was hardy, it was inexpensive, and it was everywhere.”

– Mallory C

Chapter 14.  Helen Lane.  1953-1954.

This chapter delves into the name behind the cells.  Once private information, Henrietta’s name is eventually leaked to the press, although incorrectly.  The press insists that allowing her name to be published brings “basic human interest elements” to the story of the woman behind the cells and the advancements the cells are creating in science and medicine…though I have to agree with the physicians that leaking her name without permission is an infringement on the privacy of her family.  Granted…these are the same physicians who took cells from Henrietta without asking her first.  This fact definitely makes me wonder whether the scientists and physicians are trying to protect Henrietta or themselves.

– Mallory C

Chapter 15.  “Too Young to Remember.”  1951-1965.

I’m not going to discuss this chapter in much detail.  I will just add a trigger warning for its content.

– Mallory C

Thanks for joining us for Chapters 13-15 of  The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot!  Join in next Monday for Chapters 16-18.

If you’re just joining us, here are some logistics:

We will talk about several chapters each Monday until the book is done (probably about three chapters since the book has so many).  Then, we’ll use one more Monday to talk about general feelings from the book and anything else you’d like to discuss.  Join in, in the comments every week!  At the end, we’ll have a book club discussion via video chat!  Also, there will probably be spoilers.  Read along with us!

How are you enjoying our young adult cancer book club?