Nautie Books :: Let's Chat About Henrietta Lacks

January's Book The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks was a doozy wasn't it?  Thank goodness I had already read it because, I'm certain I wouldn't have been able to while in port for most of the month! Minus the fact that it was of a serious nature did you enjoy it?  Did you learn something?  Are you still struggling to finish?

The Author, Rebecca Skloot has thoughtfully provided reading group resources and I think it might be beneficial if we use some of her Readers Guide questions to help guide a more productive discussion of the book.

I've selected a few to help us get started:

7. As a journalist, Skloot is careful to present the encounter between the Lacks family and the world of medicine without taking sides. Since readers bring their own experiences and opinions to the text, some may feel she took the scientists’ side, while others may feel she took the family’s side.What are your feelings about this? Does your opinion fall on one side or the other, or somewhere in the middle, and why?

9. In 1976, when Mike Rogers’s Rolling Stone article was printed, many viewed it as a story about race (see page 197 for reference). How do you think public interpretation might have been different if the piece had been published at the time of Henrietta’s death in 1951? How is this different from the way her story is being interpreted today? How do you think Henrietta’s experiences with the medical system would have been different had she been a white woman? What about Elsie’s fate?

10. Consider Deborah’s comment on page 276: “Like I’m always telling my brothers, if you gonna go into history, you can’t do it with a hate attitude. You got to remember, times was different.” Is it possible to approach history from an objective point of view? If so, how and why is this important, especially in the context of Henrietta’s story?

11. Deborah says, “But I always have thought it was strange, if our mother cells done so much for medicine, how come her family can’t afford to see no doctors? Don’t make no sense” (page 9). Should the family be financially compensated for the HeLa cells? If so, who do you believe that money should come from? Do you feel the Lackses deserve health insurance even though they can’t afford it? How would you respond if you were in their situation?

(The rest of the questions can be found here.)

This book stuck with me for awhile.  It had me thinking about American History in ways I hadn't ever considered.

I'll add these questions to a new forum topic so that those of you who are shy can keep your thoughts out of the comments.

Chat Away, Nautie Friends!

Confused about Nautie Books?  Don't be!  Read a bit on how it all began the first book we discussed and how Nautie Books became an official thang.