Between the Lines Book Club: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

between the lines book club logoTomorrow (April 27) we’ll be meeting at Arden Dimick Library at 10:30AM to discuss The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot.

The Immortal Life is about real people. Rebecca Skloot worked closely with the Lacks family in writing the book. Knowing about their mother’s cells has had a major impact on the family. Where are they now?

The family is currently engaged in an argument regarding the recent HBO movie starring Oprah Winfrey and Rose Byrne. Some members of the family are happy with their current situation. Many of them give public speeches, for which they are paid, and others have benefited from the Henrietta Lacks Foundation. Five family members were hired as consultants for HBO during the making of the movie.

However, other members of the family have never been happy with the way things turned out financially after the book because a hit. Among them are Lawrence Lacks, Henrietta Lack’s son, and Lawrence’s son, Ron. They feel that they have been treated unfairly and that the movie paints the family in a negative light. Lawrence and Ron plan to take legal action. As of this date, the issue is up in the air.

You can read more about the feud at The Washington Post or the Baltimore Sun.

Sadly, Deborah Lacks died of a heart attack in 2009.

 

 

 

 

 

Between the Lines Book Club: All About Cells

between the lines book club logoThis month we’ve been reading The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot. This story explains the importance of HeLa cells – ones which reproduce and survive seemingly endlessly from a single source. We’ll be discussing this book at Arden Dimick Library at 10:30 AM on April 28, 2018.

Here are ten triva facts about cells:

  1. Every living thing is made of cells.
  2. Every cell in the human body contains six to eight feet of DNA.
  3. The largest cell is an ostrich egg. The largest cell in the human body is egg cell (ovum). Other contenders for the title are giant squid nerve cells and some kinds of algae.
  4. The smallest cell is Mycoplasma genitaliumm a bacterium that causes sexually transmitted diseases in humans and increases their risk of getting HIV.
  5. There are more bacterial cells in the human body than there are human cells.
  6. The study of cells became possible with the invention of the microscope.
  7. Scientists guess that the human body contains about 37.2 trillion cells, but no one knows for sure.
  8. Microphages are a kind of cell that attacks foreign material. When you get a tattoo, microphages eat the ink, but they can’t break it down. Over time, those microphages die and new ones eat the leftover ink. So a tattoo is more of a process than a static object.
  9. A single-celled organism called Monocercomonoides is the first eukaryotic cell ever to lack mitochondria.
  10. 10. Getting the flu can cause men to end up (temporarily) with misshapen (but harmless) sperm cells. So…get your flu shots, guys!

 

 

 

Between the Lines Book Club: Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

between the lines book club logoOur April Book Club pick is The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot. I thought this book was amazing when I first read it so I was thrilled that Book Club voted it in. We will be meeting on April 28. at Arden Dimick Library, from 10:30AM – 12.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks combines science with history and biography in an accesible and intersting way. A HeLA cell is a cell taken from a cell line that has been incredibly durable – seemingly immortal. These cells all derive from cells taken from a Black woman, Henrietta Lacks, in 1951. The removal of the cells was done without Lack’s knowledge or permission, and her family has not benefitted

Skloot explains the science of the cells and why they are so important. She also examines the life of the woman the cells came from, and helps surviving members of Lack’s family understand what happened and why. The book was made into a movie of the same title, starring Oprah Winfrey, in 2017.

 

Between the Lines Book Club: Interviews With James Baldwin

between the lines book club logoWelcome to Between The Lines Book Club! This month’s selection is Go Tell It On The Mountain, by James Baldwin. We will meet to discuss the book at Arden Dimick Library, at 10:30AM, on March 24, 2018.

James Baldwin was a powerful speaker and he often gave interviews. If you haven’t read Go Tell It, these interviews will give you a sense of how Baldwin speaks (he has a distinctive literary and speaking cadence) and his views. Here are a few of his interviews and speeches:

Here is a lengthy interview in which Baldwin discusses sexuality

Here he is discussing his return from Europe to New York in 1962 in The Guardian

Here’s an interview from Esquire that was conducted in 1968, shortly after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.

And finally, here are five great interviews on video.

 

 

 

 

Between the Lines Book Club: James Baldwin

between the lines book club logoWelcome to Between The Lines Book Club! This month’s selection is Go Tell It On The Mountain, by James Baldwin. We will meet to discuss the book at Arden Dimick Library, at 10:30AM, on March 24, 2018.

James Baldwin was an African-American gay man whose essays and novels tackled race, class, religion, and sexuality. He grew up in Harlem during the Harlem Renaissance and became a pivotal figure in the Civil Rights Movement, as well as a deeply influential author.

Baldwin grew up the oldest of eight children. His stepfather was abusive and Baldwin felt that he had to take care of his younger siblings. At 14, Baldwin became a junior minister in the Pentecostal Church. Bible speech and the rhythm of language from the King James Bible influenced his later work. A few years later, he renounced religion entirely.

At 24, Baldwin lift the US for France, where he spent most of the rest of his life. He was part of the Left Bank group, a radical group of artists who questioned cultural norms. In this environment, Baldwin was free to be openly gay and he was free from the systemic, institutionalized racism found in the US. He returned to the US to be a spokesperson for the Civil Rights Movement. He and Bayard Rustin faced discrimination within the Civil Rights Movement for being known as gay men. However, Baldwin continued to be part of the Movement

Baldwin’s books include Go Tell It On the Mountain, Fire Next Time, and Giovanni’s Room. He was a friend and mentor to countless artists and activists. His influence on literature cannot be overstated.

 

 

 

Between the Lines Book Club: Go Tell It On The Mountain

between the lines book club logoWe are back with Between The Lines Book Club! This month’s selection is Go Tell It On The Mountain, by James Baldwin. We will meet to discuss the book at Arden Dimick Library, at 10:30AM, on March 24, 2018.

Go Tell It On The Mountain is a semi-autobiographical novel, published in 1953. It tells the story of a young Black boy (John) growing up in Harlem, and his family. The Pentacostal Church plays a large role in the book. John struggles with his place in the family, his confusion regarding his sexuality, and his feelings about the church which is both destructive and deeply nourishing to the community.

If you find this book tough going, you might want to check out Shmoop.com, a free online study guide. If you want to read something shorter by the same author that addresses the same themes, try Baldwin’s essay “Letter From a Region in My Mind,” which is available at The New Yorker , or any of his other essays. Look for a biblical cadance of speech, as well as discussion of religion, race, and sexual orientation.

 

 

 

 

 

Between the Lines Book Club: Redneck Comedy

between the lines book club logoWhen I was a kid, I used to watch the “hillbilly” comedy and variety show “Hee Haw” with my grandma. That show has come and gone, but the last few decades have seen a rise in “Redneck” based comedy, with stars like Larry the Cable Guy, and Bill Evengall. The key point of this comedy is that it is “laughing with,” not “laughing at,” by people who are self-identified rednecks.  As Jeff Foxworthy says, “You can’t laugh at a redneck unless you are one, and I are one.”

Jeff Foxworthy made himself famous with his stand-up comedy routines in the 1980’s and 1990’s. His most famous routines involved his “You might be a redneck” routines.  Here’s one of his stand up routines:

 

Gretchen Wilson, a country music star, had a big hit with this funny but proud song, “Redneck Woman” in 2004:

 

Trae Crowder challenges stereotypes as “The Liberal Redneck” with heated political commentary (and a LOT of swearing):

 

Here’s an extra one, because Trae sure can lay it down:

 

 

Etta May, who may or may not be a comic persona created by a Yankee, does stand-up based on her family and her life as a housewife:

 

And this one made me, a Weight Watchers vet, laugh out loud: