Recently it was announced that Oprah Winfrey plans to executive produce and star in an HBO film adaptation of Rebecca Skloot’s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. When I read this news, I caught myself heaving an immense sigh of relief. With Oprah at the helm, I knew Miss Henrietta was going to be safe.
Skloot’s 2010 biography of Henrietta Lacks is one of the most extraordinary literary events of this decade, which only befits the extraordinary Lacks and her legacy. Widely regarded as a lynchpin of her Baltimore neighborhood, she was a beautiful, small African-American woman who said what she thought, fed everyone, and painted her nails perfectly red. Raised by her grandfather in the slave quarters where their family had once been relegated, she shared a room with first cousin David “Day” Lacks, with whom she birthed her first child at age fourteen. Day and she married, moved to Baltimore from the tobacco farms of Virginia, and went on to have four more children, including the developmentally disabled Elsie and her youngest, Deborah. Continue Reading →