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The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is a nonfiction book by Rebecca Skloot, first published in 2010. The book tells the true story of Henrietta Lacks, an African American woman whose cells were taken without her knowledge in 1951 and became the first “immortal” human cell line—meaning that the cells can be grown and multiplied endlessly in the lab. These cells, known as HeLa, played a crucial role in scientific and medical advancements, including the development of the polio vaccine, cancer research, and various other scientific breakthroughs.

The book spans the mid-20th century to the early 21st century, stretching from the era of racial segregation to the time of the Civil Rights Movement to modern day. The narrative explores not only the scientific impact of Lacks’s cells but also the ethical and social implications surrounding medical research, informed consent, and the exploitation of individuals from marginalized communities.

Rebecca Skloot’s book is acclaimed for its meticulous research and the sensitive exploration of Henrietta Lacks’s life, her family’s journey, and the broader implications of her unwitting contribution to medical science. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks addresses issues of bioethics, racism, and the intersection of scientific progress and human rights. The book was the basis for a well-received HBO film with Oprah Winfrey and Rose Byrne in 2017. 

Explore the full book summary, an in-depth analysis of  Henrietta’s daughter Deborah Lacks, and explanations of important quotes from The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.

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