I’ve come across bits and pieces of information related to two different books I’ve read recently, and thought I’d take a moment to share some links of interest. Plus, a smidge of Harry Potter, because Harry Potter is always worth talking about!
When I wrote about the audiobook of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks earlier this month (review), I focused just on the book content — what I enjoyed and what I didn’t, my overall impressions, etc. What I didn’t do at that point was to look for information about what has happened since with the family of Henrietta Lacks, the HeLa cell lines and their use in research, and the author of the book, Rebecca Skloot.
One of my questions while listening to the book had to do with the Lacks family. While the book discusses the sad situation of many of the family members, their financial struggles, and their inability to afford health coverage, it was not clear to me whether any of the book’s profits would be benefiting the family. A commenter on my blog was kind enough to mention that the author had started a foundation in honor of Henrietta Lacks, and that made me realize that I should share some of the information I came across here as a follow-up to my review.
First of all, Rebecca Skloot has established the Henrietta Lacks Foundation, to benefit the family of Henrietta Lacks as well as others in need. Ms. Skloot is the president of the foundation’s board of directors, and contributes a portion of her royalties and speaking fees to the foundation as well.
There have also been additional developments in the scientific community in regard to the HeLa genome, the family’s privacy rights in regard to their genetic data, and the ongoing use of HeLa in research.
Some reading links:
Henrietta Lacks Foundation: http://henriettalacksfoundation.org/
New York Times article about the foundation: http://nyti.ms/1BOaypD
The Lacks Family website: http://www.lacksfamily.net/
(includes information on speaking engagements, pictures and videos, and a link for making donations)
Rebecca Skloot’s FAQ page: http://rebeccaskloot.com/faq/
(includes detailed answers to questions about HeLa research, new developments since the book’s publication, the impact on the story, her writing process, and more)
New York Times op-ed piece by Rebecca Skloot (“The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, the Sequel”): http://nyti.ms/17TSE93
There’s a lot more information out there and tons of articles that come up with a simple Google search for “Henrietta Lacks” or “HeLa”. I’m glad that I followed up and learned more, and I hope these links are helpful for those of you who are interested!
The Storyteller (review) is a work of fiction, but its depiction of Holocaust survivors and the narration of one particular survivor’s experiences seem all too real. The book raises a question about guilt and regret; whether evil acts can be outweighed — or at least, counterbalanced — by a life dedicated to helping others. In The Storyteller, a 95-year-old man confesses to a young friend that he was once an SS officer who oversaw the treatment of prisoners at Auschwitz. The friend seeks help from a prosecutor who works to hunt down Nazi war criminals and bring them to justice. In the book, the characters discuss the difficulty of bringing elderly suspects to trial, especially as there are fewer and fewer witnesses still living with each passing year.
I was reminded all over again of the relevance of the issues raised in The Storyteller when I saw an article in the newspaper this week about the trial just getting under way in Germany. The defendent is a 94-year-old man who was a guard at Auschwitz, and is being accused of being an accessory to the murders of 170,000 people.
You can read more about the trial here: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/feb/11/auschwitz-guard-trial-concentration-camp-germany-reinhold-hanning
It will be interesting to follow the course of the trial and see the outcome, particularly as there are several similar cases still pending in Germany. I was particularly struck by this fact included in the article: “Of 6,500 SS members who are known to have served at Auschwitz, only 29 were ever brought to trial in Germany. ”
If you haven’t had a chance to read The Storyteller yet, by all means do!
A final note:
After two serious subjects, I thought I’d end with something completely unrelated and totally upbeat: By now, I’m sure everyone has heard, but just in case…
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is being released in book form! *happy dance*
This is NOT another Harry Potter novel, but rather the script from the London stage production. The book will be released on Harry’s birthday (July 31st, for the Muggles out there), and is available for preorder now!
Some news pieces about the book:
From the BBC: http://www.bbc.com/news/entertainment-arts-35539552
From EW — a clarification from J. K. Rowling about what the book is and isn’t: http://www.ew.com/article/2016/02/11/jk-rowling-cursed-child-book
And the Pottermore announcement: https://www.pottermore.com/news/ww-publishing-cursed-child-script-book-announcement
I’d still prefer a trip to the theater in London, of course — but since that’s not going to happen any time soon, I’m tickled pink about the book! Who else is counting the days until July 31st?