Chosen as a Best Book of the Year by more than 60 publications, including New York Times, The New Yorker, People, USA Today, O, The Oprah Magazine, NPR, Boston Globe, Financial Times, Los Angeles Times, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks beautifully tells the story of an episode in the medical profession that had far-reaching consequences. In 1951, Henrietta Lacks was the unknowing donor of a cell line that is “immortal," the unique ability of her (cancerous) cells to be easily kept alive and grown, making them the medium through which many of the twentieth-century advancements in cell biology are derived. The polio vaccine, for example, was developed through the use of HeLa cells, as they were named after the woman from which they originated.
The book also covers issues in civil rights, law, privacy, ethics, psychology, sociology, and business. Students and instructors will find many areas to explore, reflect on, and debate.
The college tradition of One Campus One Book invites participants to read and discuss the same book throughout the Fall semester with the purpose of meeting these objectives:
- To provide a common connection between
students, faculty, and staff, beginning when students arrive and lasting into
- To provide an interdisciplinary view of the diversity of our world through literature
- To provide an opportunity for students
to understand their responsibility as engaged learners in an academic
- To emphasize the importance of critical thinking, reading, and writing in the college setting while challenging students to explore something new and different.
Use this reading guide to help you reflect on the book and consider important questions raised such as: Who actually “owns” the cells? What happens when businesses start to profit in a big way both from the cells and the research they make possible? Do Henrietta Lacks’ descendants have any rights to the cells or the monies they generate? What are the ethical considerations when working with human subjects?
A campus-wide book discussion is planned for November 16th, so be sure to mark your calendars and be sure to attend and share your own thoughts of the book with campus peers!
You can purchase The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks in the campus bookstore or borrow a copy from the Marymount library.
We look forward to another year of engaging and enlightening discussion!