I love this book because it opened my eyes to a reason why I’ve always been wary of medical procedures, and it demonstrated in a real concrete way what institutional racism and misogyny look like and how those two things insidiously intersect too often for black women, particularly when it comes to healthcare. It was also really thought provoking about the ethics of medicine for profit and scientific consent. I think it’s an important book and I think, particularly if you’re white and/or male and/or in a medical career of some kind from research to practice, it should probably make you uncomfortable.
This book made me sad and angry and do a lot of self reflection. It also validated my feelings of not being heard or having my concerns dismissed by medical professionals which has fed feelings of anxiety and mistrust when it comes to medicine. Women are ignored and not believed and condescended to in medicine often…told that we don’t know our own bodies the way doctors do. And this is amplified more for black women. This one amazing story of one woman’s experience and journey isn’t anecdotal. Even medical professionals themselves have said they discount black women, and black women’s reproductive health and maternal death rates are higher. These common practices in medicine COST LIVES.
And it also made me grateful for my health and for this woman whose tragic circumstances eventually led to life saving vaccines and cancer treatments. Henrietta Lacks saved and improved and touched COUNTLESS lives. She has, in some way, almost assuredly touched yours. And still few people really know much if anything about her. And her family has never been compensated in any way for her priceless contribution to science and modern medicine. And in the world we live in, that is unfair.
This is maybe an interesting book for me to choose as one I love, but reading it was kind of life changing for me, so even though it’s not a book that made me feel particularly good or hopeful, it was a book that I feel like informed a part of who I am today. And I think it’s important for other people (especially white people and men and medical professionals) to read it. A book doesn’t have to give you warm fuzzies or hope or closure for it to be a great book.
I admit this one might be hard to read for some people, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth reading. If you don’t think you have it in you to read this one, I hope you read something else thought provoking and challenging to your own experience in the world. And as always, if you want to give something new a try, here are the books I’ve written.