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Author Archive: "Rebecca Skloot"

So Much for Certainty

I mentioned in one of my earlier posts that I used to skip high school to hang out in the aisles and coffee shop at Powell's. It's true. My freshman year (at Lincoln High School, for those interested), I got less than a 1.0 grade point average because I was busy wandering the aisles reading books at Powell's and hanging out with friends in coffee shops and Forest Park.

But mostly I was busy pretending to be a student at Metropolitan Learning Center (aka: MLC). All of my friends went to MLC and I fit in better there than at my own school — MLC didn't give grades, students got to design courses for themselves, teachers went by their first names, we sat on the floor instead of lined up in desks, and we read books like Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States instead of a traditional history books. The only problem was that I didn't get credit for classes at MLC freshman year because I wasn't enrolled there.

Frequently Asked Questions

As part of blogging at Powells.com this week, I'm going to answer a few frequently asked questions about The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, and I thought I'd start with one that has Portland roots.

People often ask how I came to learn about the HeLa cell line and decide to write a book about it. I first learned about Henrietta Lacks when I was 16 and sitting in a basic biology class at Portland Community College (PCC). My teacher, Donald Defler, mentioned HeLa cells, saying they were one of the most important tools in medicine, then almost as an aside, he said, "They came from a woman named Henrietta Lacks, and she was black." That was the moment I became obsessed with Henrietta. I went up to Defler after class and started asking questions about whether her family knew about the cells (they didn't) and what her race had to do with them being alive, but he stopped me, saying no one knew anything else about Henrietta, just her name and her race.

Book Tours: Not Dead Yet

I'm ecstatic to be guest blogging at Powells.com this week for many reasons, but top on the list is that it's a homecoming: I grew up in Portland and went to high school not far from Powell's (well... more accurately, I didn't go to high school there: I often skipped classes and spent hours hanging out in the aisles and coffee shop at Powell's with my friends ... but more on that in a later post).

Today, I write this post sitting in a coffee shop in Atlanta, exactly two months into the crazy four-month-long book tour I organized with the help of my father, Floyd Skloot. A few months ago, before The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks was published, I wrote this essay for Publishers Weekly explaining why and how I planned to organize a tour for myself, starting with this:

My publisher has been hugely supportive of my book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, so I figured my tour was a given. I fantasized about driving cross country with the boyfriend, our dogs, and a herd of our closest friends in a big tour bus with bright colored cells painted all over it (yes, cells, the things in your body).

Then I went to my first publicity meeting.

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