In light of my blog post about being more chill with my book blog, this is going to be my first post where I don’t sit and write an academic article about my thoughts on a book! Ironic that I’m doing this with a science based book but here we go, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.
This books is a biography written by a white woman, Rebecca Skloot. With this being about a Black woman who was exploited I was concerned about this going in, but she actually addresses this within the book itself. Of course as a white woman I can’t speak on this properly, but it did seem like she really cared for the wellbeing of the Lacks family and wanted to truly tell Henrietta’s story to the world. But I would look for own voices reviews of this to get a view on that part.
I liked that there was science mixed in with the personal, it wasn’t all just about her life and it wasn’t all just about the science, the two intertwined. It shows the impact that the HeLa cells have had on society, saving so many lives, as well as the impact the treatment of Henrietta had both on her and on her family around her. And that difference is pretty stark.
I like that Skloot chose to write about how she got in contact with the family. It shows the exploitation that they’ve been subject to before, as well as hopefully keeping her accountable for how she was getting in contact with them. Given that they’re able to pick this up and read it.
Overall I gave this 4*s. On my CAWPILE spreadsheet I rated it:
- 10 for characters
- 7 for atmosphere
- 7 for writing
- 8 for plot
- 9 for intrigue
- 8 for logic
- 8 for enjoyment
The CAWPILE rating isn’t designed for non-fiction books so I’ve had to just make this fit for the book the best that I can. And my rating came out at 8.14, so a solid 4 stars!
Highlight for trigger warnings: mention of sexual abuse, cancer, racism, classism, medial procedures, death
Honestly I really recommend picking this one up. It’s a really interesting book that focuses primarily on the human impacts of the work carried out, both on Henrietta and on what the HeLa cells have been able to achieve and it’s really important to remember and honour the woman who’s cells were stolen, who has enabled so many scientific advancements.