What would you do if you learned your cells were taken without your knowledge?
What if those cells were used to develop vaccines, used for cancer research, and even helped create the cure for Polio?
Would you want to know? Do you have a right to know? Do you have a right to compensation?
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks examines the mostly unknown story of the woman and her family that experienced just that. Henrietta Lacks will forever be in the history books as the woman who gave us the HeLa cells, but those books do not tell the story behind the origin of those cells. They don’t share the economic and social struggle her family endures, despite her cells being bought and sold for research by the billions. Rebecca Skloot spent 10 years researching and getting to know Henrietta’s family to create this book. Part scientific inquiry about HeLa cells, part medical mystery about what makes these cells immortal, part memoir about the history of the Lacks family, Skloot weaves a tale that I initially thought was fiction and was interested to find out was completely true.
I first heard of The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating when I was searching for books related to chronic illness. Then it popped up as one of the "chronic illness reads" for the Dysautonomia Support Network Book Club. When I actually cracked opened the deckled edge, I found that this book was not quite what I expected. It's part self-discovery, part nature memoir, part autobiography. ETB finds herself bedridden with a severe chronic illness, the only companion she keeps is a snail on her bedside table. In between ETB's descriptions of her snail's daily habits are deep thoughts about the differences between being a snail and being human, and more similarities than I thought possible.