Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Book to Movie: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

There are some books that you recommend over and over and over again. A couple years, that book for me was "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks." It's a great non-fiction book about the woman behind the infamous HeLa cells, which have helped scientists do everything from create vaccines to create new treatments. It was the first immortal human cell line, developed way back in the 1950s. It is used worldwide still to this day. Now because cells come from humans, HeLa had to come from somewhere and it came from an African American woman named Henrietta Lacks, who had no idea that her story would live on this way as the cells may have been taken without her permission

It is a fantastic story and it has been turned into a movie by HBO. I am so happy that I got the chance to watch it!

The movie stars Oprah Winfrey as Henrietta Lacks' daughter who is still not sure what her mother's legacy really means. It also stars Rose Byrne as Rebecca Skloot, the author who wrote "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks." The book does focus on Lacks' family but it really doesn't focus on Skloot and how she wrote the book. The movie does focus on the making of the book, which I really enjoyed. 

Skloot has to go through a lot to gain the trust of the Lacks family. They are very distrustful of anyone that comes around asking about there mother. Rightfully so as any time anyone comes around, they seem to be interested in making a buck off the family. They still feel that they are owed something as their mother's cells are still being used so widely.

The movie explores the complicated relationship between science and race and between people being uneducated about certain subjects and how others take advantage of that when they should know better. I loved the movie's treatment of all of that! 

The acting in the movie is really good. Although Skloot does talk about what Henrietta was like, you get a much better sense of who she was as a person through the movie, which I loved. Throughout the movie, there are flashbacks to when Henrietta was alive and when she got diagnosed with cancer. We also get a good sense of who her family is and what her family has been through. I loved the intersection between science and the personal way that it can affect people. 

This was a great movie and I fully recommend it! Thanks to ThinkJam and HBO for a copy in exchange for my honest review!


  1. Yes, the movie was well done. But the way you understood the book was not exactly the same as the way I understood it.

    The book is about Henrietta, but it is even more about her daughter and the author. It is about, as I believe you say, misunderstandings, leading to a lot of trust issues.

    I didn't see that anyone who came around the family wanted to make a buck of them. As a matter of fact, this is one of the misunderstandings.

    I did not understand that people took advantage of uneducated people. The family was uneducated, so they misunderstood things. They thought they were being taken advantage of.

    I saw the family when they came to the African-American Museum in Detroit. They all seem nice, and they each signed my book for me. When they spoke, they never once said anything negat5ive about how they had been treated.

    1. I agree with you, techeditor. I really enjoyed the first 1/3 of the book, but had a real problem with the latter parts. I felt like the author made the book all about her rather than telling Henrietta's story.

  2. Sounds interesting. I would have to be in the right mood to read it.
    sherry @ fundinmental


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