Summary: Chapter 15

After Henrietta’s death, Lawrence dropped out of school to support his siblings. He was drafted into military service and served two years in a Virginia base. No one told the younger Lacks children what happened to Henrietta, and they weren’t allowed to question the adults.

Ethel moved into Day’s house with her husband, Galen. She fed the children little food and made them clean the house. Joe took the brunt of Ethel’s anger, and she frequently beat him. When Lawrence returned home, he moved in with his girlfriend, Bobette. They discovered how Ethel treated the Lacks siblings, and Bobette insisted the children move in with them.

Meanwhile, Galen began to sexually assault Deborah. Bobette found out by accident, but protected Deborah and encouraged her to continue her education. However, Deborah wanted to marry her neighbor, Cheetah, because she thought having a husband would keep Galen away. She considered dropping out of school because, like her siblings, she didn’t hear well. Since she had been taught not to speak up to adults, her teachers didn’t know she couldn’t hear them. Bobette told her to sit towards the front of the classroom.

Deborah didn’t know about Elsie, who died soon after Henrietta, for most of her childhood. When Day told her that Elsie had been deaf, Deborah was upset that no one had tried to teach her sign language.

Summary: Chapter 16

Cootie sent Skloot to talk with Henrietta’s cousin, Cliff, who had grown up with Henrietta. He brought her to the Lacks family cemetery. The plot contained both white and black members of the Lacks family, and because many family members couldn’t afford gravestones, some graves were unmarked. Cliff pointed out the gravesite of Henrietta’s mother, but Henrietta’s own grave was unmarked.

Henrietta’s maternal great-grandfather was a white man named Albert Lacks, who had divided his land between his three sons. When his son Albert Jr. died, he left his land to his black descendants. His brother Benjamin successfully sued to take back some of the land, and the court granted him half of Albert Jr.’s property. Sixteen years later, Benjamin divided up his land between his own seven black children.