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The Ink Drinkers Book Club: Rebecca Skloot – “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks”

February 12 @ 4:00 pm - 6:00 pm

This week’s selection is Rebecca Skloots’s book The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (description below)

Copies of the book may be found in the library during the preceding weeks leading up to the discussion. For this edition, the group will also be watching the recent film adaptation of the work. As such, we will be convening at 4:00 p.m. for this session. There is no registration, sign-up, or cost for attending. This month, light refreshments are offered for the holidays. 

The Ink Drinkers always meet every second Monday of each month for informal reading discussion. No registration is required!


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, which are still alive today, though she has been dead for more than sixty years. 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.

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 in the lives of the Lacks family—especially Henrietta’s daughter Deborah. Deborah was consumed with questions: Had scientists cloned her mother? Had they killed her to harvest her cells? And if her mother was so important to medicine, why couldn’t her children afford health insurance?

Intimate in feeling, astonishing in scope, and impossible to put down, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks captures the beauty and drama of scientific discovery, as well as its human consequences.


February 12
4:00 pm - 6:00 pm
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Sayre Public Library
122 S Elmer Ave
Sayre, PA 18840 United States
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