Mamatoga Book Club: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, the Saratoga Reads! Book Selection

This weekend kicked off the year for a great local organization Saratoga Reads! They held their Book Fair at Barnes and Noble today and there was a great crowd that came out to shop and support them, myself included. I got the kids a bunch of fun books for presents and a few for myself as well. I talked about Saratoga Reads and their book selection process in this post here, and now that everyone has voted their book selection for the year has been chosen! This year's title is The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, and this unique story will be an interesting and exciting read for our Mamatoga Book Club. Now, before we get into the book, let me tell you just a little more about what Saratoga Reads has planned for this year. Today as I said was their Book Fair, and in case you didn't get a chance to make it over there, you can still use their code to purchase books online and help support Saratoga Reads. Click here to shop bn.com from 12/4 to 12/9. Use their book fair online code 1056466 at check out and a portion of your online purchase will support Saratoga Reads! too!

Here are some other great events they have in store for Saratoga:

  • Book Introduction Event with Empire State College Faculty and Professionals. Sunday, January 22nd at Empire State College, 113 West Ave, Saratoga from 1:30-4:30pm. The event will feature a viewing of the 1997 film "Miss Evers Boys" which follows the story of the U.S. Government's 1932 Tuskeegee Syphilis Experiments. The viewing will be followed by a guided discussion led by Empire State College faculty and professionals and light refreshments will be served.
  • Junior Book Discussion Part I. February 2nd at the Saratoga Springs Public Library.
  • Junior Book Discussion Part II. February 9th at the Saratoga Springs Public Library.
  • Saratoga Vital Aging Network Book Discussion. February 12th at the Barnes and Noble on Route 50 in Wilton.
  • Winter Break Art Program for Kids. February 21st at the Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery, Skidmore College. Registration begins in February 2012, event runs from 10:30-12pm.
  • Book Fair in celebration of NEA Read Across America Day. March 3rd, Barnes and Noble, Route 50 in Wilton.
  • Movie Matinees, March 4th at Skidmore College.
  • Annual Friends of the Saratoga Library Partner Event. March 18th, Saratoga Springs Public Library.
  • Books & Brunch on March 18th at Sperry's Restaurant, 30 1/2 Caroline Street in Saratoga.

Another great part of Saratoga Reads is their Saratoga Reads Junior program that lets the whole family participate in this great community reading event! They provide a list of junior companion titles to explore the themes of the chosen selection so everyone can get involved. They have titles for younger and middle grade readers and there are a few different themes this year, from Medical Research and Scientists at Work to Investigative Reporting and the Civil Rights Area. Check their website for a full list of the companion titles coming soon.

Now for The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks! Called the "godmother of virology and then biotech, benefiting practically anyone who’s ever taken a pill stronger than aspirin" Henrietta Lacks was a poor Southern tobacco farmer who worked the same land as her slave ancestors, yet her cells—taken without her knowledge—became one of the most important tools in medicine. The first “immortal” human cells grown in culture, they are still alive today, though she has been dead for more than sixty years. If you could pile all HeLa cells (called that from combining her first and last names) ever grown onto a scale, they’d weigh more than 50 million metric tons—as much as a hundred Empire State Buildings. HeLa cells were vital for developing the polio vaccine; uncovered secrets of cancer, viruses, and the atom bomb’s effects; helped lead to important advances like in vitro fertilization, cloning, and gene mapping; and have been bought and sold by the billions. Yet Henrietta Lacks remains virtually unknown, buried in an unmarked grave. In this novel, Rebecca Skloot takes the readers on an amazing journey, from Johns Hopkins Hospital in the 1950s to laboratories with freezers full of HeLa cells. She brings us from Henrietta’s tiny hometown of Clover, Virginia to modern day East Baltimore where her children and grandchildren live and struggle with the legacy of her cells. This is a story almost beyond belief and one that will truly astound you. I can't wait to read this story with you, the Mamatoga readers, as well as our Saratoga community! For next week we'll cover just the first chapter, I went to the book fair at Barnes and Noble today and although they ordered the book before Thanksgiving they don't actually have any in stock yet, so I want to give everyone enough time to get a copy and read just a bit. We'll be providing you with the list of junior companion titles as well so we can get the kids involved too! In the meantime, check out this link for the New York Times Book Review of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.