Henrietta LacksBucknell University selected The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot as the first-year common reading for the Class of 2016. New students discussed the book with each other, faculty members and staff at New Student Orientation.

About the book

A New York Times bestseller, this powerful non-fiction book tells the story of Henrietta Lacks, whose cells were taken without her knowledge or permission and cultured into the first immortal cell line, allowing for a vast array of medical research and advances. Society has benefited greatly while Lacks's family remained in poverty.

Essay contest

Members of the Class of 2016 were invited to submit a 1,000 word essay in response to the book.

What ethical, medical, scientific, and societal issues arise from this story? How does one person's, one family's story, affect you personally?

The students who wrote the most creative and thoughtful essays won bookstore gift cards, were featured on the Bucknell website, and will have dinner with the book's author, Rebecca Skloot, and/or Henrietta Lacks's family members when they visit campus in Februrary.

Photo of Henrietta Lacks; copyright 2010 Smithsonian Institute

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