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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

A Worthy Companion

When I read "The Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks" not long after its 2010 publication, my book journal entry noted author Rebecca Skloot's clear-eyed reportorial approach telling this remarkable story. I also wrote of my hope that the author would honor a promise that, if her book was successful, she would donate a portion of the proceeds to the Lacks family. The usability and amazing vitality of Henrietta's cells had made a lot of money for a lot of people over the past half century, but the Lacks family were not among that fortunate group. A few years later, I was pleased reading that Skloot had indeed kept her promise.

The recent HBO movie - produced by and starring Oprah Winfrey - is a worthy companion for this important book. There are some unnecessary dramatic flourishes but there are many more moving moments and - like the book - not a lot of cheap shots taken at specific individuals. Had I written this account, I'm not sure I'd have avoided making specific people from the medical and pharmaceutical industry into boogey men. Learning to think in a more nuanced way - and hopefully to have that ability seep into my writing - is a significant by-product of reading books like "The Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks". The movie is no substitute but if it educates people and further aids the Lacks family, how can it hurt?       

1 comment:

  1. I once gifted a librarian friend of mine a bookmark stating that "the book was better than the movie." This is true in most cases and although I haven't seen Oprah's HBO movie, I expect I would think the same. Rebecca Skloot's book was excellent. Educating people about the ethics of scientific research, transparency and compensation are serious issues. You are correct that a movie that educates and attempts to right certain wrongs is worth producing.
    A few recent book-related films that are NOT worth watching are The Dinner, The Circle, and The Sense Of An Ending. All three were great novels but sometimes even Tom Hanks and Richard Gere can't save a film.
    I especially liked the title of this post - "A Worthy Companion". Maybe some day you'll deem me one.