Bestselling author Rebecca Skloot spent over ten years doggedly uncovering the truth about the life, death and ultimate “immortality” of a poor black tobacco farmer named Henrietta Lacks. On a tumultuous educational path until a community college biology instructor uttered the words “Henrietta Lacks,” Skloot—with remarkable focus and tenacity—set off on a trajectory that would shine the national spotlight on both and become the phenomenal book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.
Recognizable for its engaging, straightforward language, Skloot’s writing—both in The Immortal Life and her many feature articles for major publications—has charmed readers around the world. With this same trademark sensibility, her lectures have been lauded for her ability to make complex issues accessible to diverse audiences—at Emory University, an official described the large audience as being “completely rapt”. More than 100 communities, schools and universities have chosen The Immortal Life for their common read programs.
In The Immortal Life, Skloot tells the story of a young black woman who died of cervical cancer in 1951—and left behind an inexplicably immortal line of cells known as HeLa. Henrietta Lacks, whose cells—harvested without her knowledge or consent—contributed to scientific advancements as varied as the polio vaccine, treatments for cancers and viruses, in-vitro fertilization and the impact of space travel on human cells. The story is also about her children, who were later used in research without their consent and who’ve never benefited from the commercialization of HeLa cells, though the cells have helped biotech companies make millions of dollars. Part detective story, part scientific odyssey and part family saga, The Immortal Life’s multi-layered approach raises fascinating questions about race, class and bioethics in America.
Spanning a variety of topics, Skloot’s lectures have fascinated everyone from college undergraduates assigned to read the book to more technical medical or legal audiences seeking an expert perspective on modern medical bioethics. Skloot has spoken widely, at high schools, colleges and professional organizations, including: Johns Hopkins University, Morehouse School of Medicine, The National Council of Teachers of English, The National Institutes of Health, Harvard University, Yale University, Public Responsibility in Medicine and Research (PRIM&R) and more. She has appeared on numerous television and radio shows, including The Colbert Report, CBS Sunday Morning, and National Public Radio programs including Fresh Air and Talk of the Nation. These interviews and more are available on her website.
The Immortal Life was selected as a best book of 2010 by over 60 media outlets including: The New York Times, Entertainment Weekly, American Library Association, People, The Washington Post Book World, O, The Oprah Magazine, and The Boston Globe. It has enjoyed more than four years on The New York Times bestseller list, was listed as on of Amazon’s 100 Books to Read in a Lifetime, and is being translated into more than 25 languages and made into an HBO film produced by Oprah Winfrey and Alan Ball. Skloot was named One of Five Surprising Leaders of 2010 by The Washington Post.
Though best-known for The Immortal Life, Rebecca Skloot has written more than 200 feature articles, personal essays, book reviews and news stories for The New York Times Magazine; O, The Oprah Magazine; Discover; Columbia Journalism Review; Seed; New York Magazine; Slate; Popular Science; the Chicago Tribune; and other publications. Her work has been anthologized in several collections, including Best Food Writing and The Best Creative Nonfiction. She is co-editor of The Best American Science Writing 2011 and has worked as a correspondent for NPR’s Radiolab and PBS’s Nova ScienceNOW.
Rebecca Skloot has a B.S. in biological sciences and a MFA in creative nonfiction. She has taught creative writing and science journalism at the University of Memphis, the University of Pittsburgh, and New York University. She is founder and president of the Henrietta Lacks Foundation (www.henriettalacksfoundation.org). Skloot is currently working on a new book about the human-animal bond from her home in Chicago, and remains in close contact with the Lacks family.
For more information on Rebecca Skloot, please visit rebeccaskloot.com/
For more information about the Lacks family and where they are today, please visit www.lacksfamily.com/
To learn more about the Henrietta Lacks Foundation, which strives to provide financial assistance to needy individuals who have made important contributions to scientific research without their knowledge or consent, please visit henriettalacksfoundation.org