Indiana State University Newsroom

‘Immortal Life' author Rebecca Skloot to speak at Indiana State

September 24, 2014

Last year, Terre Haute and Indiana State University met surviving family members of Henrietta Lacks, whose cells were taken for medical research without her knowledge or consent. This fall, the community will get a chance to meet the author who spent 10 years uncovering the truth about Lacks' life, death and ultimate "immortality."

The University Speakers Series at Indiana State, which brought two of Lacks' great-granddaughters to campus in 2013, will feature Rebecca Skloot, whose book "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks" has spent more than three years on the New York Times bestseller list. Selected as a best book of 2010 by more than 60 media outlets, "The Immortal Life" is being translated into more than 25 languages and is being made into an HBO film produced by Oprah Winfrey and Alan Ball.

Indiana State is among more than 100 universities, schools and communities to have chosen "The Immortal Life" for their common read programs. Those who have heard Skloot speak say she employs the same engaging, straightforward language she uses in her writing and that she makes complex issues accessible to diverse audiences.

In "The Immortal Life," Skloot tells the story of Lacks, a young black woman who died of cervical cancer in 1951-and left behind an inexplicably immortal line of cells known as HeLa. Henrietta Lacks' cells contributed to scientific advancements as varied as the polio vaccine, treatments for cancers and viruses, in-vitro fertilization, and the impact of space travel on human cells.

The story is also about Lacks' children, who were later used in research without their consent and who've never benefited from the commercialization of HeLa cells, though the cells have helped biotech companies make millions of dollars.

Though best-known for "The Immortal Life," Skloot has written more than 200 feature articles, personal essays, book reviews, and news stories for such publications as The New York Times Magazine; O, The Oprah Magazine; Columbia Journalism Review; Seed; New York Magazine; Slate; Popular Science; and Chicago Tribune. She is co-editor of "The Best American Science Writing 2011" and has worked as a correspondent for NPR's "Radiolab" and PBS's "Nova ScienceNOW." She was named One of Five Surprising Leaders of 2010 by The Washington Post.

Skloot holds a bachelor's degree in biological sciences and a Master of Fine Arts in creative nonfiction. She has taught creative writing and science journalism at the University of Memphis, the University of Pittsburgh, and New York University. She is founder and president of the Henrietta Lacks Foundation. She is working on a new book about the human-animal bond from her home in Chicago, and remains in close contact with the Lacks family.

Her presentation at Indiana State is scheduled for 7 p.m. Oct. 20 in Tilson Auditorium. A book signing will follow. All University Speakers Series events at Indiana State are free.


Media contact: Dave Taylor, media relations director, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3743 or





Story Highlights

Rebecca Skloot, author of "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks," will speak at 7 p.m. Oct. 20 in Tilson Auditorium as part of the University Speakers Series at Indiana State.

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