Henrietta Lacks Book Cover

The 2017-18 Common Book is "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks"

Winona State University Common Book Project will feature The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot as its 2017-18 common book.

About the Book

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks tells the fascinating and important story of Henrietta Lacks, the forgotten woman whose cells became one of the most important tools in modern medicine, aiding in developing the polio vaccine, in-vitro fertilization, cloning, and gene mapping, as well as helping scientists and physicians to better understand the workings of cancer and innumerable viruses.

Born in 1920 in Virginia, Henrietta Lacks was a poor tobacco farmer. When she sought treatment for an aggressive cancer in 1951, doctors at Johns Hopkins Hospital took a tissue sample without her permission or knowledge. Lacks’s cells, named HeLa, were the first to grow and survive indefinitely in culture, becoming “immortal,” a fact she died before learning. Currently, HeLa is the most widely used cell line in labs worldwide, bought and sold by the billions. Lacks’s descendants have never received any financial compensation from the selling of Lacks’s cells.

Published in 2010, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks was a #1 New York Times bestseller and remained on the NYT bestseller list for seven years after its publication. It has won a number of awards, including the 2010 Wellcome Trust Book Prize. Skloot’s writing has appeared in such places as The New York Times Magazine and Discover. She specializes in narrative science writing and has explored a variety of issues including tissue ownership rights, race and medicine, food politics, and goldfish surgery.

Skloot is the founder and president of the Henrietta Lacks Foundation, which provides financial assistance to people who have made important contributions to scientific research without their consent and have not personally benefitted from those contributions.

Your Assignment...

If you choose to read The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, incorporate what you take away from the book into your life while at the university. The book will be adopted in numerous sections of English 111, College Reading and Writing, and may be adopted in other courses as well. Use this opportunity to learn more about the greater community and turn your knowledge into action.

Where to Buy

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is published by Broadway Books, a division of Crown Publishers and will be available from the WSU Bookstore and other booksellers. Additionally, a packet of teaching and contextual materials for prospective adopters will be available by midsummer. Faculty adopters should simply list the book (ISBN 978-1400052189) on their book request form through the WSU Bookstore.

Special Thanks

Funding for the Common Book Project has generously been made available by the CLA Dean’s Office and the WSU Bookstore. For more information about the project, please contact Prof. Ann-Marie Dunbar at ADunbar@winona.edu.