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The Case Against Rebecca Skloot

Posted by Jason Robinson on

The history of African-Americans and medical research is interesting - and by interesting I mean filled with horrifying stories of intentional infections and bio-ethical nightmares.  One of these instances has come to the forefront in the past week with a mother in Knoxville, Tennessee who has objected to her son being assigned "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks" by Rebecca Skloot to read as summer reading.  It is important to note that her son is enrolled at a STEM academy in Knoxville which makes her objection to the book all the more ironic.

For reference, you can find the original story here.

Let me begin by saying I read "The Immortal Life..." when it first came out in 2010.  In my opinion, it is one of the best non-fiction books I have ever read because of the depth of storytelling as well as the factual nature of the subject matter.  The book could easily be mistaken for fiction because it seems so far-fetched by modern standards but the unfortunate fact of the matter is that the story is true.

Let's fast forward five years to a parent who has objected to the book, not because of the severity of the injustices portrayed in the narrative, but because of subject matter she outright described a "pornographic."  For reference, there is a part of the book where there is a description of Henrietta Lacks doing a self-examination of what would become an aggressive cervical tumor.  I will let you use you own imagination from there.

I'm not here to bash the mother, but I have to respectfully disagree with her characterization of the book.  Yes, there is adult material in the book - however it is all within the context of the story.  As a parent, I won't be reading this to my child as a bedtime story - but when my child is old enough to have "the talk" we are going to read this book and talk about it.

Secondly, I have to wonder how "bad" the book is in comparison to what her child watches and listens to.  I don't have cable, but from what i hear MTV doesn't play videos anymore and the programming cannot hold any historical significance in comparison to this story.

Ultimately, I'd like for people to read the book and decide whether or not you find it "pornographic" or not.  Here's a link to it at Amazon and I will let you form your own conclusion.

 


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