Summary: Chapter 29

Deborah refused to talk to Skloot for nearly a year after their first conversation. During that time, Skloot would send Deborah updates on things she had learned about Henrietta. Finally, Deborah called Skloot and told her that she would help as long as Skloot made sure everyone knew Henrietta’s correct name, all five of the Lacks children were mentioned, and that the book told the story of all the Lackses, good and bad. Deborah emphasized that she wanted to know what happened to her mother and sister.

When Deborah and Skloot met, Skloot showed her an image from a Hopkins researcher named Christoph Lengauer. After reading an article Skloot had written for Johns Hopkins Magazine , Lengauer sent Skloot a photo of a gene mapping technique he’d developed using HeLa that, under a UV light, lit the chromosomes in beautiful colors. He also invited the family to visit him at Hopkins to look at the cells. Deborah thought the photo was beautiful, but noted she had more photos of HeLa cells than her mother. Nevertheless, she wanted to learn about how HeLa cells had helped people. Unlike her brothers, she had given up on any hope of making money back from her mother’s cells. For Deborah, so many of the stories about her mother and HeLa seemed so incredible that it was difficult for her to distinguish fact from fiction.

Skloot finally explained to Deborah that the blood samples McKusick had asked for were not for cancer screenings but DNA research. Deborah was frustrated that he hadn’t explained it to her and that he’d given her an autographed copy of his book that she couldn’t have hoped to understand.

The effects of Hopkins’ and journalists’ lack of transparency had left Deborah extremely paranoid, and she occasionally lashed out at Skloot. At one point, Deborah accused Skloot of trying to steal Henrietta’s medical records.

Summary: Chapter 30

Skloot was nervous to meet Zakariyya because of his violent reputation, but Deborah assured her that he was ready to talk.

At this point, Zakariyya was near fifty and living in an assisted living facility for his partial deafness and near blindness. Deborah promised to watch the conversation from a distance and intervene if things got tense. Zakariyya began to rant about how angry he was at George Gey for taking Henrietta’s cells. He noted that the Lacks family couldn’t afford care and the only people who benefited from the treatments her cells created were people with money. Zakariyya believed he was mean because he had to start fighting in the womb because of cancer. He concluded that despite the good Henrietta’s cells had done, he would have rather she had been alive to take care of him. Deborah noted that most journalists didn’t want to let Zakariyya speak because he was angry and abrasive but that it was important to hear him too.