“Yet another story of a person of color saving millions and contributing to mankind, only to have to glory and paychecks stolen. If she was compensated fairly, the compound interest could have built many institutions in black neighborhoods. But as usual, only the white folks benefit. Ahhh..the benefits of lying, cheating and stealing. Gotta love America’s history. ” – Lybroan James
It is often said, by African American intellectuals (and sincere students of the history of the United States) that the economic foundation of America was built firmly on the backs of enslaved Africans. Brought to work (and codified in the Constitution) as unpaid cogs in the economic gears of the fledgling democratic republic, the bricks of today’s political institutions were literally and figuratively mortared together with the blood and spirit of black folk. But this is a book review.
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is a poignant, detailed journey reflecting that same sacrifice of an African American woman and her family, benefitting humanity with absolutely no recompense. Though I began the book ignorant of the contribution of HeLa cells to science, medicine and humanity, their impact in scientific research cannot be denied. The author, Rebecca Skloot, crafts a wandering tale through white privilege and black bodies ending with (yet again) another example of black folk expanding the definition of individual rights to cover more people than they previously did. But, again, this is a book review.
I can honestly say that I read very little fiction nowadays. With fierce historical writing like Skloot’s work, there is no need. Fantasy cannot convey the joy or wonder that Deborah Lacks exhibited (and the author captured beautifully) at discovering the truth about her mother or the absolute breathtaking awe when Zakkariya Rahman actually watched a HeLa cell divide before his very eyes.
I highly recommend this book. Rebecca Skloot has paid homage to the sacrifices of the Lacks family with great insight and sensitivity, conveying their lives clearly and with honor. She has brought to light in a definitive manner the contribution Henrietta Lacks has made to the world.