Named one of the Best Books of the Year by:
- The New York Times Book Review
- Entertainment Weekly
- O: The Oprah Magazine
- Financial Times
- New York
- Independent (U.K.)
- Times (U.K.)
- Publishers Weekly
- Library Journal
- Kirkus Reviews
- Globe and Mail
2020 Common Read
The Thomas College Common Read is our invitation to join our academic community of individuals who share and explore ideas with each other.
After reading and reflecting on this year’s selection, we’d ask you to create a written response . During Fall Orientation, you will have an opportunity to discuss what you have written along with other students in your class. Your written response is due to the Provost’s office by Friday, August 7th. For more information, click the button below.
The 2020 Common Read is:
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
By Rebecca Skloot
ABOUT The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
From the publisher’s website: https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/168191/the-immortal-life-of-henrietta-lacks-by-rebecca-skloot/
- #1 New York Times Bestseller
- “The story of modern medicine and bioethics—and, indeed, race relations—is refracted beautifully, and movingly.” —Entertainment Weekly
- Now a major motion picture from HBO® starring Oprah Winfrey and Rose Byrne
- One of the “Most Influential” (CNN), “Defining” (Lithub), and “Best” (The Philadelphia Inquirer) Books of the Decade
- Winner of the Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize for Nonfiction
Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. She was a poor Southern tobacco farmer who worked the same land as her slave ancestors, yet her cells—taken without her knowledge—became one of the most important tools in medicine: The first “immortal” human cells grown in culture, which are still alive today, though she has been dead for more than sixty years. HeLa cells were vital for developing the polio vaccine; uncovered secrets of cancer, viruses, and the atom bomb’s effects; helped lead to important advances like in vitro fertilization, cloning, and gene mapping; and have been bought and sold by the billions.
Yet Henrietta Lacks remains virtually unknown, buried in an unmarked grave.
Henrietta’s family did not learn of her “immortality” until more than twenty years after her death, when scientists investigating HeLa began using her husband and children in research without informed consent. And though the cells had launched a multimillion-dollar industry that sells human biological materials, her family never saw any of the profits. As Rebecca Skloot so brilliantly shows, the story of the Lacks family—past and present—is 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 are made of.
Over the decade it took to uncover this story, Rebecca became enmeshed in the lives of the Lacks family—especially Henrietta’s daughter Deborah. Deborah was consumed with questions: Had scientists cloned her mother? Had they killed her to harvest her cells? And if her mother was so important to medicine, why couldn’t her children afford health insurance?
Intimate in feeling, astonishing in scope, and impossible to put down, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks captures the beauty and drama of scientific discovery, as well as its human consequences.