WELCOME TO THE IU SOUTHEAST COMMON EXPERIENCE
An annual program designed to cultivate a common intellectual conversation across campus, to strengthen the sense of community at Southeast and in the region, to encourage open discussion, civil discourse, and critical thinking, and to enhance the reputation of Southeast as a regional center of learning excellence.
The common reading for the 2013-14 Indiana University Southeast Common Experience is The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot.
The book has been used by many universities and colleges in their first year reading programs. Here is a brief discussion of the book:
Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. She 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 were vital for developing the polio vaccine; uncovered secrets of cancer, viruses, and the effects of the atom bomb; helped lead to important advances in cloning, in vitro fertilization, and gene mapping; and have been bought and sold by the billions, with devastating consequences for her family. Now Rebecca Skloot takes us on an extraordinary journey, from the “colored” ward of Johns Hopkins Hospital in the 1950s to stark white laboratories with freezers full of HeLa cells, from Henrietta’s small, dying hometown of Clover, Virginia—a land of wooden slave quarters, faith healings, and voodoo—to East Baltimore today, where Henrietta’s children, unable to afford health insurance, wrestle with feelings of pride, fear, and betrayal.
The book is the recipient of the following awards:
Praise for The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks...
“Thanks to Rebecca Skloot’s remarkable book, the Lacks case is likely to become a classic in the history of biomedical ethics. . . Skloot is a science journalist but this book also evidences her skill as a historian . . . provides a profound sense of history. Students in classes covering ethics, public health, and the history of medicine, childhood, the family, women, the 1950s, and race will be engrossed by Lacks’s story. The many questions raised by the existence and use of HeLa cells will generate hours of classroom discussion.”
—Journal of the History of Medicine
"What is The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks really about? Science, African American culture and religion, intellectual property of human tissues, Southern history, medical ethics, civil rights, the overselling of medical advances? . . . The book’s broad scope would make it ideal for an institution-wide freshman year reading program.
" —David J. Kroll, Professor and Chair, Pharmaceutical Sciences, North Carolina Central University
"An incredibly readable and smart text that should be a part of countless university discussions . . . Ethically fascinating and completely engaging–I couldn’t recommend it more."
—Deborah Blum, Helen Firstbrook Franklin Professor of Journalism, University of Wisconsin-Madison
"A stunning illustration of how race, gender and disease intersect to produce a unique form of social vulnerability, this is a poignant, necessary and brilliant book."
—Alondra Nelson, Associate Professor of Sociology, Columbia University
"An essential component of biomedical research, Skloot finally gives the HeLa cell line its human face. HeLa grew from a tissue sample taken from a highly aggressive cancerous tumor on the cervix of 31-year-old Henrietta Lacks, a young, African-American mother, the child of tobacco farmers, and the granddaughter of slaves, who died a painful death in the colored ward of Johns Hopkins Hospital in 1951. She never gave permission for the sample to be taken; in turn, her cells have reproduced geometrically and scientists estimate that over 50 million metric tons of cells—as much as one hundred Empire State Buildings—have been grown since 1951. Skloot (a regular contributor to Popular Science) offers a detailed and dramatic medical detective story, effectively balancing careful, scientific reporting with intense and respectful interactions with Lacks’s extended family. The brutal irony of Lacks’s life is that though her early death did not allow her to mother her own children, her cells and the medical miracles they engendered (polio vaccines, DNA research, and more) effectively mothered us all."
—School Library Journal
Global Conflict, Human Rights, and Ethics: Fire under the Snow, Tibetan Monks Discuss their Struggle against China