Saturday, August 29, 2015

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

Written by: Rebecca Skloot

First line: There's a photo on my wall of a woman I've never met, its left corner torn and patched together with tape.

Why you should read this book: It's mind-bogglingly good, an interdisciplinary work that melds science, psychology, history, ethics, journalism and a bunch of other guiding principles and somehow reads like a thriller, a page-turning story that makes you desperate to find out what happens to a wide cast of characters. Henrietta Lacks, a poor, uneducated black woman with 5 children, died of a really brutal form of cancer, cells of which were harvested from her body without her consent, and subsequently proved to be immortal and became the basis of most research in eradicating human disease. Many scientific advances were made based on her tissue, and many people got rich off it; meanwhile, Lacks's five motherless children suffered without health insurance or knowledge of what had really happened until the author set out to finally tell Henrietta's story. 

Why you shouldn't read this book: You don't believe in consent.

Mothers, Tell Your Daughters

Written by: Bonnie Jo Campbell

First line: Ed and I were making out by candlelight on the couch.

Why you should read this book: Bonnie Jo Campbell is a remarkable writer who constructs memorable, believable characters in tense, sometimes painful, always meaningful situations, and this short fiction collection may be her best work to date. I'm not even angry that the first story in this book won a prize in a contest in which one of my short stories was only awarded the designation of "finalist." Anyway, this book is awesome; you can't buy it yet, because I got an ARC from a librarian who wanted me to review it for her website (because Bonnie Jo is also a friend and former professor of mine), but you can advance order it, and look forward to the day that you can read it yourself.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You haven't been in rehab very long.