The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
Most journalists reporting on science can only dream of writing a story like Rebecca Skloot wrote, author of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. She researched the life (and death) of the forgotten patient and her famous cells for ten years. In this livecast we will zoom in on narrative techniques in science journalism. Together with science journalist Jop de Vrieze and Skloot we will discuss ways in which reporting on science can turn into a gripping story like this bestseller and the pitfalls of this technical genre.
This True Stories Livecast #2 is organized in collaboration with the Vereniging Wetenschapsjournalisten in Nederland (VWN)
About The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. She was a poor black tobacco farmer whose cells—taken without her knowledge in 1951—became one of the most important tools in medicine, vital for developing the polio vaccine, cloning, gene mapping, in vitro fertilization, and more. Henrietta’s cells have been bought and sold by the billions, yet she remains virtually unknown, and her family can’t afford health insurance. Soon to be made into an HBO movie by Oprah Winfrey and Alan Ball, this New York Times bestseller takes readers on an extraordinary journey, from the “colored” ward of Johns Hopkins Hospital in the 1950s to stark white laboratories with freezers filled with HeLa cells, from Henrietta’s small, dying hometown of Clover, Virginia, to East Baltimore today, where her children and grandchildren live and struggle with the legacy of her cells. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks tells a riveting story of the collision between ethics, race, and medicine; of scientific discovery and faith healing; and of a daughter consumed with questions about the mother she never knew. It’s a story inextricably connected to the dark history of experimentation on African Americans, the birth of bioethics, and the legal battles over whether we control the stuff we’re made of.
Buy The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks here.
About Rebecca Skloot
Photo: Manda Townsend.
Rebecca Skloot is the author of the New York Times Bestseller The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. Her award winning science writing has appeared in The New York Times Magazine; O, The Oprah Magazine, and many other publications. She specializes in narrative science writing and has explored a wide range of topics, including goldfish surgery, tissue ownership rights, race and medicine, food politics, and packs of wild dogs in Manhattan. She has worked as a correspondent for WNYC’s Radiolab and PBS’s Nova ScienceNOW. Skloot is the founder and president of The Henrietta Lacks Foundation. She has a B.S. in biological sciences and an MFA in creative nonfiction. She financed her degrees by working in emergency rooms, neurology labs, veterinary morgues and martini bars. Skloot current lives with her pets in California, where she is working on new book about humans, animals, science, and ethics, a topic near and dear to her. Before becoming a science writer, Skloot spent more than a decade working as a veterinary technician in animal shelters, vet clinics, emergency rooms, shelters, research labs, and an animal morgue. Those experiences, and the ethical questions they prompted, are at the center of her book-in-progress, which explores the often controversial topic of animal research through a deeply personal story about our complex relationships with animals — their roles in our lives, and in science — and the humans who battle over their fates, and as a result, our own.
About Jop de Vrieze
Jop de Vrieze started freelancing when he was still studying biomedical sciences. After that he finished his master in science communication, interned at a communication department of science finance company NWO and after, in 2008, iniated his fulltime freelance career as a science journalist. In his smooth writing he keeps a critical and broad view. From day one he has a special interest in stories on the interception of science and society. This enthousiasm resulted moreover in the publication of the popular science book Allemaal Beestjes, about the micro organisms in and around our bodies. His other book De Karakterman is filled with scientifically proven tips and tricks about the lifestyle of modern man. In recent years he has become more and more critical and he embarked upon an investigative journalism journey. In 2016 he won the international AAAS Kavli Science Journalism Gold Award together with his wife Zvezdana Vukojevic. They won the prize because of the story they wrote after the stillbirth of their first son Mikki. The central question was why the Dutch birth care system is lacking in rescuing Mikki and other children.
About Association for Science Journalism and Communication Netherlands (VWN)