I’m behind on my writer updates and giveaways, so I’ve decided to make it a regular Wednesday event for you.
This week I’m giving away a signed copy of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by bestselling author, Rebecca Skloot. Win this signed book by seeing the contest details below (VERY EASY TO ENTER).
I cannot emphasize enough how important it is, if you are a writer, or an avid reader who wants to better understand the process of writing, that you need to subscribe to Pittsburgh Arts and Lectures. I get nothing for telling you this (see my personal Ethics page, here). I don’t work for them or get any special treatment.
I’m telling you because listening to writers talk about their process, their research and answer your questions about a particular book or their methods is invaluable. And subscribing gives you the opportunity to attend one or two receptions where you get to actually meet those authors in a semi-private setting, ham a snapshot, and walk away knowing you touched immortality, just a tiny bit.
In the case of Rebecca Skloot, I felt immortality-adjacent in so many ways. Not only does meeting a successful writer inspire you and make you feel part of history, but this book she wrote is important.
HeLa cells are immortal. They were taken from a cancerous tumor in a black woman named Henrietta Lacks at Johns Hopkins hospital. They never die, and they have been studied and been the impetus for revolutionary treatment for AIDS, cancer research, gene mapping and so many scientific pursuits it will make your head spin.
But this story is more than just the life of those cells. It’s about the fundamental ethics of taking tissue from living humans and large pharmaceutical companies profiting from it in ways that never directly benefit the “donor.” It is about the story of one poor family, their struggle to come to terms with finding out, nearly twenty years after the death of their mother, that her cells, in essence parts of her, were still living, were impacting so many lives through a multi-billion dollar industry while they struggled to make ends meet.
Skloot’s journey to tell their story, and the story of HeLa cells, was tenacious to say the least. She is the kind of strong woman many of us hope to be “when we grow up.” Her singular pursuit of an issue so important to a family, and to the ethical debate of tissue research in our nation, rewards us with a story so meaningful and powerful that it should be one of your “must read” books.
Skloot was accompanied by Henrietta’s son, David “Sonny” Lacks at the lecture. He was endearing and charming and lit up the lecture hall with tears and laughter as he shared stories and slideshows from his family and talked about his late mother. They were introduced by Evan Frazier, Senior VP for Community Affairs at Highmark.
One important thing to note about Rebecca Skloot that defines her character as a writer and a human: she donates a portion of her book proceeds to set up and administer the Henrietta Lacks Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to “provide financial assistance to needy individuals who have made important contributions to scientific research without personally benefiting from those contributions, particularly those used in research without their knowledge or consent.”
YOU CAN ENTER UP TO FIVE (5) TIMES TO TRY TO WIN THIS SIGNED BOOK:
1) Go to the Pittsburgh Arts & Lectures Page on Facebook and thank them for bringing Rebecca Skloot to Pittsburgh (you need to make sure you *Like* their page as well!)
2) Go to Rebecca Skloot’s Facebook Page, *Like* it and thank her for coming to Pittsburgh (bonus entry if you tell her Traveling Marla sent you!)
3) Comment below on whether you’ve read this book or if you’ve heard of HeLa cells. Discuss anything you want related to the cells, the writer or the book or even the ethics of tissue “patenting.”
4) Sign up to receive my daily blog post by email. You’ll probably get an email to confirm – it might go to your SPAM folder, so watch for it!) I only post once a day and I never spam, so I hope you’ll get your Traveling Marla delivered daily. (And yes, if you already get me by email, message me with your email address so I can double-check it in the list, and you’ll get an entry: kmdruzgal at gmail dot com OR marla at marlasinkdruzgal dot com. I was told that I actually do have to remind people that when I write “at” use “@” and when I write “dot” use “.” (You know…like an email address 😉 .)
5) Donate to the Henrietta Lacks Foundation. I need proof, but you can block out any personal info when you send me your receipt. Email it to: marla at marlasinkdruzgal dot com or to kmdruzgal at gmail dot com
It’s necessary to write them out longhand to avoid those crazy autobot email snatchers. 😉
DEADLINE: NEXT TUESDAY, MARCH 5TH BY 5PM (So I can announce the winner on next Wednesday’s Writer Blog!)
Did you enjoy today’s writer blog and book giveaway? You might enjoy others I’ve written and given away recently: