Central Texas Book Club to discuss a must-read biography

The English Honor Society, Sigma Tau Delta, is hosting the UMHB Central Texas Book Club at 7 p.m. Nov. 6.. The selection is The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot.

Assistant Professor & English Department Chair Dr. Jacky Dumas said members of Sigma Tau Delta have enjoyed the book.

“So far, the club has shown a great deal of interest. This book has been runner-up in our selection voting the two previous semesters. The club likes the book’s potential for interdisciplinary collaboration among students and faculty,” he said.

The book tells the story of Henrietta Lacks, better known as HeLa by scientists. Lacks was an African-American woman working as a tobacco farmer in the South during the early 20th century.

In spite of the fact that many saw her as just a poor slave descendant, Lacks would become responsible for one of the most important medical revolutions: The immortal, or HeLa, cell line.

This is the first continuously cultured human malignant line of cells. In short, these were the first human cells to live and reproduce outside the human body.

Although many are unaware of the HeLa legacy, it has greatly benefited mankind by being used in cell research, and up until recently Lacks never received credit for her contributions.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

examines the life and times of Lacks, and it ponders perplexities such as why Lacks’ family was unaware of her contributions to science until more than 20 years after her death.

Skloot’s book brilliantly exposes the truths that were unknown to many regarding the dark past of African-American experimentation.

Following the reading of the book, a discussion will take place Nov. 6 at 7:00 p.m. in the Lord Conference Center in Parker. Assistant Professor of Sciences Dr. Joy Ahlgren-Beckendorf and Assistant Professor of Communication Vicky Kendig will lead the discussion.

“I read the book two years ago,” Kendig said. “One of my former students gave me the book and said he liked the way Skloot, as a journalist, had put her storytelling skills to work. I’ll re-read it with an eye to the investigative reporting techniques and ethics and talk a bit about that at the discussion.”

Dumas was fascinated by the book’s ability to reveal emotions from the reader.

“I have been reading the book a little at a time for the past two weeks. I am almost done, and I find it very intriguing. I have experienced sadness and anger while reading this book,” he said.

For those interested in reading the book and attending the discussion, copies are available at the UMHB bookstore and bookstores nationwide.


Author: Lauren Jones

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