Rebecca Skloot: How Fannie Flagg and Hurricane Carter Shaped The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

June 20, 2010

Skloot explains how two unlikely influences helped her shape “a rare and powerful combination of race, class, gender, medicine, bioethics, and intellectual property” (Seed magazine) into “one of the most graceful and moving nonfiction books I’ve read in a very long time” (Dwight Garner, New York Times).

Thanks to Heather at the Book Store in New Martinsville, West Virginia, for putting Fried Green Tomatoes in Rebecca’s hands. Lots of other great books, too, including Louise Erdrich’s Love Medicine; Skloot credits that book’s multiple voices—Erdrich weaves them together to tell the story of the Kashpaws and Lamartines—as a model for how voice could work in The Immortal Life.

Follow ReadRollShow on Twitter or connect on Facebook and we’ll notify you as more clips from Rebecca’s interview appear in the coming weeks.


More Rebecca Skloot
Her (excellent) web site
Skloot on Twitter
A 5000-word excerpt from The Immortal Life (
The Henrietta Lacks Foundation
Immortal Life Book Tour Trailer Part 1 (video)
Willamette Week interview
Jacket Copy interview
Smithsonian Magazine interview
New York Times book review
Washington Post book review
Entertainment Weekly review
The Colbert Report (video)
CBS Sunday Morning (video)
Terry Gross (audio)

Rebecca Skloot is a science writer whose work has appeared in The New York Times Magazine; O, The Oprah Magazine; Discover; and many other publications. She specializes in narrative science writing and has explored a wide range of topics, including goldfish surgery, tissue ownership rights, race and medicine, food politics, and packs of wild dogs in Manhattan. She is the guest editor of The Best American Science Writing 2011, a contributing editor at Popular Science magazine, and has worked as a correspondent for WNYC’s Radiolab and PBS’s Nova ScienceNOW. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, her debut book, took more than a decade to research and write, and instantly became a New York Times bestseller.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Ralph Henderson June 30, 2010 at 3:05 pm

Thoroughly enjoyed The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. Both my wife a non medical orient person and I (veterinarian) found it haunting and compelling. I don’t think anyone can read it impassively. I also think the “burden” was passed to you and you have borne it gracefully and effectively. This is required reading for our incoming residents-in-training. Thank you.


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