The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot, New York: Crown Publishers, 2010. 381 pages. Reviewed by Fatou Diene.

Rebecca Skloot is a famous author who comes from America. This author is mainly recognized for her books focused on science and medicine. In her life, Rebecca Skloot won several awards as the Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize, in 2010. And like almost her awards, it thanks to her first book The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, published in 2010 in America.

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This book is about the life of a black woman, during the segregation in America, who was diagnosed of a cervical cancer and has involuntarily permitted to medicine to discover remedies for incurable diseases.

Rebecca’s opinion on this story is described in her preface.Indeed, Rebecca Skloot has published this book because today no one knows about Henrietta Lacks. And for the author, this is very shocking that nobody knows even just her name. According to Rebecca, Henrietta’s cells proved very important for medical advances but also for ethical reasons and she must not be overshadowed.

In her preface, Rebecca Skloot insists on the fact that Henrietta Lacks was living during the Segregation period. And as a matter of fact, she was victim from many injustices related to racism. She was living in a poor family and was suffering from many sexually transmitted diseases which she could not have cured at all because she was unable to bear the expenses of the healing.
The author denounces the racism applied to Henrietta in the fact that she could not get treated elsewhere than Hopkins hospital because it was the only hospital which accepted to treat black and/or poor people. White hospitals were likely to send them away. The Black people hospitals were less numerous. As a consequence, access to health for black people was difficult. Henrietta Lacks finally died in 1951.

Rebecca Skloot continued her preface by explaining that Henrietta’s family was exploited. No member of the family knew what was happening with Henrietta’s cancerous cells. According to the scientists, the family did not get any education and as matter of fact would not understand anything about what they were doing. But if they knew something about this, they would have immediately stopped the scientists in their researches. That would be unacceptable for the scientists and that is why they had kept it as a secret. And in spite of the help that Henrietta’s cells gave to the scientists, the family did not get better medical treatments or any compensation.

In my opinion, this book is a revelation. I think that everybody should be grateful to Rebecca Skloot to have written this book. I recommend you this novel because it is important to know the history of medicine. Furthermore, this movie is very moving…