SBU invites community to read ‘The Immortal Life’ best-seller, meet the author during her campus visit

A larger-than-life cutout of Henrietta Lacks marks an All Bonaventure Reads event.

The Immortal Life book coverAuthor Rebecca Skloot will discuss her best-selling book “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” during a public lecture at St. Bonaventure University Wednesday, Sept. 29. The program begins at 7 p.m. in the Reilly Center Arena and will be followed by a book signing.

Skloot’s first book hit No. 5 on the New York Times’ best-seller list less than a week after its February publication date. has named “The Immortal Life” one of the 10 “Best Books of the Year,” and Oprah Winfrey and Alan Ball have teamed up with HBO to create the film version of the book.

Buzz about the book has certainly spread across the St. Bonaventure campus, which selected the book last spring as its All Bonaventure Reads selection for 2010-2011. First-year students at St. Bonaventure received copies of the book at Orientation, and will engage in conversations and activities in their University 101 courses and various campuswide events during the academic year.

“We are enjoying enthusiastic responses to our All Bonaventure Reads selection of ‘The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,’” said Jean Trevarton Ehman, chair of the All Bonaventure Reads committee and director of the university’s Teaching and Learning Center. “Our campus community has embraced Skloot’s storytelling ability, as she expertly wove a complicated story into an engaging, page-turning revelation that captivates readers.”

The Olean-area community is invited to read the book and attend Skloot’s upcoming lecture.

“The Immortal Life” is the enthralling story of Henrietta Lacks, the forgotten woman behind one of the most important tools in modern medicine, and of Lacks’s descendants, many of whom feel betrayed by the scientific establishment. Lacks, who died of cervical cancer in 1951, is the source of the HeLa cell line, the first human cells able to reproduce on their own in the laboratory.

The book speaks to many themes — medical ethics, scientific research, the experience of African Americans in the second half of the 20th century, and the availability and cost of health care.

“Importantly, the book speaks to the Franciscan values underlying an SBU education, and we believe that the students in the incoming class of 2014 will have a rich opportunity to explore those values as they discuss the book in classes this fall,” said Dr. Nancy Casey, director of the First-Year Experience program.

 Join Us For These
All Bonaventure
Reads Events:

• A special exhibition of segregation images from media and other sources opens Sept. 10 in The Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts.

• Lecture/discussion on “Medical Ethics” led by Dr. Russell Woodruff, assistant professor of philosophy, 4:30 p.m. Sept. 20, Plassmann Hall Room 157.

• Read the book and meet the author! Rebecca Skloot will discuss “The Immortal Life” and sign copies of her book during a Sept. 29 visit to campus. The program begins at 7 p.m. in the Reilly Center Arena. It is free and open to the public.

All Bonaventure Views movie festival: Films will be shown at 6:30 p.m. in The Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts:

  - Sept. 22, “Miss Evers’ Boys”
  - Oct. 13, “Lorenzo’s Oil”

• Lecture/discussion on how HeLa cells have informed HIV-AIDS research led by Dr. Adam Ritchie of Weatherall Institute for Molecular Medicine, John Radcliffe Hospital, University of Oxford, 7 p.m., Oct. 7, Dresser Auditorium, John J. Murphy Professional Building.

St. Bonaventure Provost Dr. Michael J. Fischer asked all incoming students, as their first official college assignment, to write a one- to two-page reflection on the book. A group of faculty and staff are now in the process of reading each paper and selecting a group of winning essays. Winners will be recognized and will have the chance to meet Skloot when she comes to campus.

Rebecca SklootAlso, as part of University 101 (a one-credit course for all first-year students), freshmen will be reflecting on a theme from the book and developing class or small-group projects that will be displayed during a Poster Session at the end of the semester.

To read an excerpt of the book, visit

Visit for more information and a schedule of other All Bonaventure Reads events. A reader’s resource guide developed by the All Bonaventure Reads Committee is also available online.

Skloot is a science writer whose work has appeared in the New York Times Magazine; O, The Oprah Magazine; Discover; Columbia Journalism Review; and many other publications.

She has explored a wide range of topics, including goldfish surgery, tissue ownership rights, food politics, and the perils of packs of wild dogs in Manhattan, and her essays have been widely anthologized. Skloot has a bachelor’s degree in biological sciences and a master of fine arts degree in creative nonfiction.

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