Thursday, August 1, 2013

And the Oscar goes to ...The Help and HeLa

Updating to a post from early last year:  As you read further down, The Help and HeLa now have one additional thing in common, not only are they both excellent books, the former being fiction, while the subject of HeLa being a non-fiction, they are now movies.  Well, almost.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, (HeLa) is in the very early stages of becoming a movie. Oprah's production company and HBO are collaborating.

You'll learn more about Henrietta later below but Rebecca Skloot's book is  highly recommended. A biography on Henrietta, her family, life and science, it's an extraordinary book!!!

Here are a couple of links:

 Rebecca Skloot's Website

Information on the Movie.  It's a bit dated but searches didn't result in any more up to date information from reputable websites on the progress or status of the movie. However, according to Ms Skloot's twitter account, no release date, perhaps production may start this year(2013).

Older post:


Having read the The Help by Kathyrn Stockett this past year, I was anxious to see the movie. So upon an unseasonably, warm New Years eve, I clicked on the remote and off I went, back into the 1960's in to the age of racial tension, assassination and the world of cleaning ladies and house maids.

As one fellow reader and movie goer pronounced to me, 'you'll love the movie, the way the characters are so brought to life and the casting is wonderful'.  I couldn't have said it better myself. The movie adaptation was one of the best, especially the cast!

I don't claim to be a prognosticator, but with the results of the Golden Globe awards being a precursor to the Oscars, my money is on The Help to clean up at least one category on Sunday night.

Now you may ask, okay, I know about the book and the movie, The Help.  But what is HeLa?

Best known in the science community, HeLa is the name given to a strand of cells that continue to grow and multiply, providing medical research the unprecedented ability to explore cures for cancer, polio and many other diseases.

Much like the story of the maids in the Help, HeLa has its own story to tell. Thanks to Rebecca Skloot's decade long research, those absent from the medical research field, now know the true story of HeLa. A story that needed to be told.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, isn't as much about science as it is about the love for one's mother, family, self dignity and pride.  Dying of cervical cancer in the early 50's, Henrietta unconsentingly and unknowingly provided cancerous cells to doctors and researchers.

Expecting these cells to die away like so many do, researchers were shocked to find they didn't. They continued to grow and live. What did these cells offer science you may ask? Henrietta Lacks' cells provided the basis to help cure many diseases ...

Skloot's writing not only tells about the life of these cells but what became of them, who they came from and why they've so effected each and everyone of our lives. People are alive today because of the HeLa cells were used to develop cures for cancer. That in itself is why the story needed to be told.

Interjecting factual events at Johns Hopkins, questionable ethical activities within the medical community, the stories of fraud and Supreme court cases signify the importance of Henrietta to the world.

The Lacks family for many years desired to learn more about their mother, how she lived, how she died and all that was left for Deborah, Henrietta's daughter, was a few strands of hair, a bible and the home-house where Henrietta was raised. All the while as their mothers cell's catapult research into a multi billion dollar industry while they can't afford their own medical insurance.

So in what the movie, The Help, provides us in entertainment and the state of society in the 60's,  Henrietta Lacks gives us something more important - - life, deserving of an award in her own right.

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