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  • October 6th at 7 pm: Book club – The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

“Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. She was a poor black tobacco farmer whose cells—taken without her knowledge in 1951—became one of the most important tools in medicine, vital for developing the polio vaccine, cloning, gene mapping, in vitro fertilization, and more. Henrietta’s cells have been bought and sold by the billions, yet she remains virtually unknown, and her family can’t afford health insurance.

… this New York Times bestseller takes readers on an extraordinary journey, from the “colored” ward of Johns Hopkins Hospital in the 1950s to stark white laboratories with freezers filled with HeLa cells, from Henrietta’s small, dying hometown of Clover, Virginia, to East Baltimore today, where her children and grandchildren live and struggle with the legacy of her cells. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks tells a riveting story of the collision between ethics, race, and medicine; of scientific discovery and faith healing; and of a daughter consumed with questions about the mother she never knew. It’s a story 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’re made of.”

If you choose to buy the book, we encourage you to buy from an independent bookstore. Here are some ideas:

  • Frugal Bookstore, the only Black-owned bookstore in Boston
  • Papercuts, an independent, woman-owned bookstore
  • Bookshop.org, an online bookstore with a mission to financially support local, independent bookstores

You can also get the book through the Boston Public LibrarySomerville Public Library, or Cambridge Public Library, or through online access via the Harvard Hollis System.

Everyone is welcome to attend, regardless of gender or gender identity! Please feel free to join the discussion even if you have not read or finished the book!


Already happened but you can find links to materials and watch the recordings here