This month I read 4 books from the library which is huge since I normally don’t borrow books from the library. One was an audiobook (The immortal life of Henrietta Lacks) and the rest were graphic novels.
Graphic Novels from Library:
- Jerusalem by Guy Delisle – 4 stars – It is a graphical novel which talks about the author’s stay in Jerusalem with his girlfriend and kids for a year. It’s definitely a very interesting book, totally worth reading. It helped me understand what Jerusalem is like a city and what the Jews-Arab conflict is like. But my problem with this book was that it was more like journal entries from a person who lived in Jerusalem for a year and nothing more than that. I mean, there was no structure to the narration – just haphazard entries with no relation to one another sometimes. Also wish he would clearly say whether he was in the Arab side or Jewish side sometimes as I would get confused as to what a settlement was and where exactly he was. He could have given us some more history and information about the place probably as it would have helped us understand what was happening.
He could have done some research about the place and could have enlightened us more. Also like someone mentioned, he doesn’t try to understand why people do something or why something is the way it is in Israel.
- Stitches by David Small – 4 stars – A very sad, heart warming memoir in graphical format, with very less amount of text. It is about the author’s dysfunctional family, unloving mother, crazy grandma, dealing with throat cancer, losing vocal cords etc. The worst part was knowing how the author got cancer. I feel bad for kids whose parents treat them so badly. I am glad to know the author overcame these difficulties in life. Not a big fan of the artwork though it looks like it was painted using watercolors in black and white format.
- Roughneck by Jeff Lemire – 3.5 stars – I heard this is about an ex-hockey player (ice hockey) and thought this book would be about hockey. But it was completely different. It is an emotional story about a brother-sister relationship with an abusive father and dead mother. Liked the way it ended. We understand why the main protagonist was kicked out of hockey league and everything neatly ties at the end. Nothing too great or unique and it is just a simple story. Initially I didn’t like the art style but after getting a hang of it, I thought it was done really well. Definitely recommend it at least for the great artwork. I also liked that the main characters were mixed race and half American Indians.
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot –
I have been meaning to read this book for quite sometime now and finally got around to reading it, thanks to a movie adaptation with Oprah Winfrey in it. I wanted to watch the movie so read the book first. I am so glad I read this book as it is amazing. I listened to the audiobook and the narrators did a great job. There were two narrators – one representing the author(Cassandra Campbell) and the other representing the Lacks family (Bahni Turpin). The best part about the audiobook was that it had an interview with the author. I loved listening to the author herself talking about the book and the Lacks children. She also spoke about Deborah Lacks with whom she worked as part of her research for this book.
This book is (little bit) about a black woman named Henrietta Lacks and (more)about her children. The cells called HeLa which are used in medical research even today came from this woman and her family was not even aware that scientists worldwide were using their mother’s cells for research. HeLa cells became famous since they were the first cell line that scientists were able to culture and grow in lab, outside a human’s body. Until then, cells would die once they were taken out of someone’s body.
The story is really interesting – about Henrietta Lacks, her children especially Deborah Lacks. Also the science part of the book was great – cell culture, research, ethics, cancer research etc. I have not studied biology (except in school) and never heard of HeLa cells before picking this book so it was really interesting to learn how her cells contributed to medical research. What was shocking to hear was that her children only got to know about her cells after 25 yrs of her death! And the way they even learn about those cells is so sad.
Some part of the book also spoke about the racism that existed in those times. About how black men and women were treated like test subjects and injected with harmful diseases in the name of medical research. She mentions a case where some patients were not given antibiotics and allowed to die just so that the doctors could do research on them. Did they totally lack humanity ? How Deborah reacts when she finally gets to see her mother’s cells was heart wrenching to hear. People are making millions selling their mother’s tissues and the family is living in abject poverty without even money to fund their medical insurance.
The book goes into details about how the cancer was diagnosed in Henrietta and how she died. And what happened to her kids after that, which was pretty sad. Her elder daughter was sent to an institution even though it is not quite clear she was mentally challenged. Deborah who never met her sister (since she wasn’t even aware) thinks she was probably just deaf. The author has done exhaustive research on this topic, spoken to every single doctor/person involved in Henrietta’s life. Probably one of the most well researched and documented biography I have ever read. If somebody wants to learn how to write a biography or do research for a biography, they should definitely read this book. I am so glad I finally read it.
A must read for sure. 5/5 stars for the audiobook version of this book. Now going to watch the movie adaptation soon (most likely this week).