Aren’t you loving this book so far? I loved the story right from the first page. At the beginning, we meet Henrietta as she is heading to the hospital for the first time. She knows something is wrong in her body since she was able to feel and find a knot in her womb. It took such bravery for Henrietta to go to Johns Hopkins in the first place. She had to go to a segregated area, and she had to hear all sorts of scary medical terms that she didn’t understand.
Later, when learning about Henrietta’s radium treatment, readers see that doctors also took samples of Henrietta’s tumor without her permission. This is where Henrietta’s unique medical story really begins. What is your first impression of the fact that doctors took samples of Henrietta’s cells without her permission? Do you think she would have provided permission if she had been asked? I feel like she would have, not necessarily because she understood what would be done with the cells, but because I think she would have felt pressured by the doctors and would have done anything they asked.
The treatment Henrietta endured sounded barbaric. Doctors packed her insides with radium, and the treatment completely charred her skin. The saddest part for me was that Henrietta didn’t understand she wouldn’t be able to have more children. What did you think of her treatments?
Were you able to follow the science chapters easily? I thought they were pretty easy to understand. I don’t know much about cells, but the book made it clear for me how Henrietta’s cells grew and flourished. How did you feel about the science chapters?
Rebecca Skloot, the author, makes some efforts to connect with Henrietta’s family in this first section, but they are hesitant to meet with her. How do you think Skloot will break through their defenses and get to know more about their mother?
Henrietta passes away at the end of this section, but it’s just the beginning of her story. The next section talks more about her contribution to science.
If you’re enjoying Rebecca Skloot’s writing, you might enjoy watching these videos in which Skloot explains her process and how she injects facts into a narrative format. In this video she shares her strategy for recreating historical events.
She explains her system for using index cards to keep track of all of the characters in the book in this video.
Make sure you read section 2 for our discussion next week. I can’t wait to hear what you think, so make sure to leave a comment telling me your opinion!