- May 31 - King Library Opens at 1:00 PM
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is perhaps the best-reviewed non-fiction book of recent years. In the official trailer for the book, the author, Rebecca Skloot, says that the book she started out writing is not the one she ended up with. And, fortunately, the reader gets to take this journey with her.
At first, the reader follows the author as she exposes an amazing tale of medical science and ethics. In 1950, doctors at Johns Hopkins harvested a poor, dying black woman's cancer cells without her knowledge or consent. Those cells, multiplied by the billions and used in labs worldwide, have led to an astonishing number of medical breakthroughs, from the polio vaccine to modern chemotherapy treatments. Some in the medical field became very rich from these discoveries, made under questionable ethical circumstances.
But the story turns slowly into a family saga, one filled with tragedy, loss, and longing. The author becomes entwined in the complicated lives of Henrietta's children and grandchildren. Henrietta was a sharecropper most of her life, and the family still suffers from slavery's legacy of poverty, racism and ignorance. The beauty of the story is witnessing how the family finally comes to some sort of redemption as they uncover, with the help of the author, Henrietta's incredible gift to all of us. Available from San José Public Library as an e-book, downloadable audiobook, audiobook, and in print, it is San Jose State University's Campus Reads Fall Book Selection for Fall 2011.