The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by journalist and science writer Rebecca Skloot (2010), is about Henrietta Lacks (known by her famous cells, HeLa) and her family. Henrietta Lacks was an African American who died of cervical cancer in 1951 but her cancer cells are still alive today. Henrietta’s cells were the first cells to become immortal, able to continue to grow in cultures, and her cells have made scientists millions of dollars and have made countless medial discoveries possible, becoming one of the most important medical tools today, yet her family had no idea her cells were even taken to use in research. This book highlights racial injustices, scientific discovers and ethical issues that are still relevant today. It really helps paint a picture of the inequalities that low-income African Americans faced around the 1950s and how they were not given proper medical treatment or treated with dignity and respect.

This book has received many awards including the 2010 Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize for Nonfiction, and has been featured on over 60 critics’ lists of best of the year. I would recommend this book to those 14-years-old and older as some of the language used to describe how the cells were used are technical and there are some violence, sex, and profanity as well. This is a great story for many different readers, as it it good for those interested in science, medicine, African American rights, injustices, journalism, and those who enjoy a story about a strong family bond and an incredible and inspiring woman. This is a very inspiring book that really sheds lights on a medial miracle that many don’t even know about.


Published by: Crown

Resources: Meet the author and learn more about the The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

Teachers Guide to The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (including Common Core State Standards).

New York Times article on Henrietta Lacks, titled External Life


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