The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot, is a literary non-fiction book about a black woman, Henrietta Lacks, and her immortal cells. The story switches from the perspective of the author and the background story in the 1950-1980. The book explained the entire timeline from when Henrietta was still alive to when she was dead and her immortal cells lived on contributing in many significant medical developments. But Henrietta wasn’t acknowledged for for any of the achievements, she and her family didn’t even know her cells were being used for medical purposes. As the book unfolded the story behind Henrietta and her cells, it also discussed many important topics and central ideas, such as white privilege and racism.

 

Three of the most highlighted and frequently discussed about central ideas were segregation, white privilege and racism. They were frequently talked about in the book and the author included many facts that supports the ideas. I created a page about the three ideas and gave reasoning and evidence:

After I found the central ideas I wanted to focus on, I took note of each idea separately with different strategies. White privilege definitely stood out and the author gave many examples regarding this issue and central idea. During Henrietta’s time,  white people had way more privilege than black people, white people always had the better option and the black people got what was left. I gathered evidence and created a more detailed mind map demonstrating the idea:

While I was reading the book, I kept a page where I could gather all the central ideas and branched them out into more detailed segments, it was hard finding a theme for this book because the author gave a lot of information but not a lot of story-telling nor things for readers to takeaway. Here is the page I kept track of my ideas on:

From Lesson 7 and 10, I learnt about descriptive paragraphs and rereading. Combining the two I reread a descriptive passage where the author visited the Lacks’s family house and found traces of central ideas (such as segregation) in the passage that I missed when I first read it. This passage also made me think about the comparison between life for black people at that time and life for them today. Although the classism, racism and segregation against them had improved, it is still not uncommon that black people are often harmed by racism. The class difference between black and white people is still visible in society today. This note page helped me understand the living condition for black people back then better and built on my knowledge about segregation and classism.

Above are the three main central ideas I found and the note pages I made to document them. ‘The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks’ had also been made into a movie with the same name The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks that you can check out if you are interested!