I have just started to listen to another audio book, non-fiction this time, and already completely engrossing. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is the story of an African-American woman (above) who, in the late forties, was diagnosed with cervical cancer. Somewhere along the way, cells were harvested from her body and, due to some unique properties, became the first cells to be able to stay alive indefinitely, reproducing when not frozen. These cells ended up being used in many discoveries of new drugs, treatments, and even travelled into space. If they were all assembled now, it is estimated that they would make up 50 million metric tons. They apparently can be found in cell laboratories around the world, referred to as HeLa cells (after her name). All this was done without her family’s permission, nor reasonable compensation. Lacks was buried in a pauper’s grave, and is virtually unknown.
The book itself promises to be fascinating, but what immediately captured me is that the readers are two of the women who voiced characters in the audio version of The Help that I just finished: Cassandra Campbell and Bahni Turpin. Campbell, a Caucasian woman, voices Henrietta as well as the (white) writer of the book, Rebecca Skloot. Bahni Turpin voices Lacks’ daughter and was Minny in the audiobook of The Help.
If you’re interested in The Help, I highly recommend the audio book. The voicing of the characters (mostly women) adds so much to the story, and while I usually prefer my novels printed, this was one that I LOVED in audio format. I downloaded mine from the Toronto Public Library, but it’s widely available. A film version is in production and so I encourage those of you who want to read it/listen to it first to get busy!