Earlier in the year I picked up a book because there was a character who seemed to be so much like me. I was dispirited because she was nothing like me, and because the book turned out to not have much depth.
When I started reading Educated I found a character who had a childhood that was more similar to mine than anyone I had ever met. Reading about her family struggles, and her choices, was less triggering and more liberating. It takes courage to be able to speak about the unspeakable. It takes talent to be able to transcribe the emotions and experiences in a way that would engage her readers rather than alienate them.
I do not think the writing was technically perfect at all times. I think there was some choices in using time that was not the most effective, and there was some times that I wished the writing was a little more polished. Yet, these instances were small and were pale compared to the actual overall work.
I would be interested in a follow up memoir, one less focused on her childhood and more focused on her adulthood. I feel like Westover has a lot more left to say, and I would first in line to read it.
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is almost three different stories that are highly interconnected until they are woven into one cohesive book.
The first story is almost a memoir of the author Rebecca Skloot. She is very much present in the book as most of the present day stories are narrated as her experiences. The experiences may be about her interactions with the Lacks' family but you will finish the book with a connection to the author as much as to the subject of the book.
The second story is the history of the HeLa cells that were harvested from Henrietta Lacks and were grown to finance an entire medical field. These cells have done more for medical history than perhaps anything else. The story is a record of that history. This record is written in a way that is gripping and understandable to individuals who do not have a medical background. Yet it is engaging and through enough to be of interest to even those who have worked directly with these cells.
The third story is a story of Henrietta Lacks and her family. This is a story of a rural African American female whose parents were slaves. It is the story of her daughter Deborah who lacked formal education yet educated herself of anything to do with her mother's cells. When she didn't understand something she would work until she at least had a concept of the idea. The story is about how her family was wronged by the medical community that made millions off her mother's cells yet left her family in poverty. It is the story of how she strived for better for the future Lacks children.
The first two stories were highly fascinating. It is the third story that left the biggest impression as I read this book. I have read about the civil rights movement and accounts of desegregation. No other book put the chronology as clearly in my mind. Rebecca Skloot, who was alive during the early 2000s was the granddaughter of slaves. Within her life she was denied basic human rights. Reading about this family put it into perspective for me better than memorizing dates from any history class had. I wish this book was required reading for everyone.
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