Saturday, March 13, 2010

Book Club Meeting

We had a great read this month for the book club, Barbaras' pick: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot - her first book.  Everyone enjoyed it and the discussion was lively.  Here's an excerpt from the review of the book by Jad Abumrad, of NPR's Radiolab:  

"Honestly, I can't imagine a better tale. A detective story that's at once mythically large and painfully intimate.

Just the simple facts are hard to believe: that in 1951, a poor black woman named Henrietta Lacks dies of cervical cancer, but pieces of the tumor that killed her--taken without her knowledge or consent--live on, first in one lab, then in hundreds, then thousands, then in giant factories churning out polio vaccines, then aboard rocket ships launched into space. The cells from this one tumor would spawn a multi-billion dollar industry and become a foundation of modern science--leading to breakthroughs in gene mapping, cloning and fertility and helping to discover how viruses work and how cancer develops (among a million other things). All of which is to say: the science end of this story is enough to blow one's mind right out of one's face."

As usual the food and drink were excellent including Jamaican take-out from a hole in the wall near Chula Vista. Laurie has patients of every kind of ethnicity and likes to find out where their favorite ethnic eating places are. She knows the best spots around to get authentic ethnic food. Fried plantains, roast goat, jerk chicken and dirty rice were part of the huge spread. In addition to the Jamaican food, there were two good salads, a cheese plate and cookies. This group moves well together in the kitchen and without much fussing around gets the food on the table; we get quickly down to the business of eating and drinking while the talk flows around the table.

Inevitably talk turned to the ethics of using people's tissue/body parts for experiments with or without permission.  I'm sure it was done regularly in the past. As for Henrietta's particular case, no crystal ball could reveal the future for her cells. How can you ever foresee what would happen for example with a simple blood donation - something most of us have done without thinking much beyond just adding to the available supply. However, the blood could go to an axe murderer or child molester in prison for life who needed surgery; or to support medical research into something you might strongly object to like human cloning or brain transplants or something that seems ghoulish and unsavory to us at this point in time. Once you release control over a donation you have to accept that it will be used at someone else's discretion and you do run the risk of supporting something you abhor. For me personally, I've checked the donors box on the drivers license - they can have anything I have left of value.

There was some interesting talk of vampire literature and the relationship between vampire popularity and the economic climate. As we'd veered off the main subject and onto the inexplicable and weird,  Beth revealed that she had had a close experience of the third (?)  kind. A flying saucer sighting! I think her story got high-jacked and I didn't hear the end. Perhaps another time.

Next month's book selection is the "The Hummingbird's Daughter" by the delightful Luis Alberto Urrea whose book signing we attended as a kind of field trip last year. Here's a link to Urrea's wonderful website:

1 comment:

  1. I didn't hear the end of the flying saucer story, either!