Biography of Rebecca Skloot

Rebecca Skloot is an American author of science and medical nonfiction. She was born on September 19, 1972 in Springfield, Illinois to Floyd Skloot, a poet and essayist, and Betsy McCarthy, a professional knitter and author. Skloot graduated from the Metropolitan Learning Center in Portland, Oregon, and first attended college at Portland Community College. It was during a biology class at the college that Skloot first heard of Henrietta Lacks, the titular character of her first and bestselling work, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.

While at Portland Community College Skloot also became a veterinary technician and worked in animal shelters, private practices, veterinary schools, and research labs. Her experiences in that line of work heavily influenced her writing interests, which include the relationships between humans, animals, science, ethics, and race.

From the community college, she attended Colorado State University, where she earned a BS in biological sciences. It was during her time at CSU that Skloot discovered her interest in and talent for writing. A professor at CSU encouraged her to pursue both her science and creative writing passions, saying that there weren’t many people who could do both well. Skloot followed their advice and went on to receive a MFA in creative nonfiction from the University of Pittsburgh in 2008.

To graduate with her MFA Skloot had to produce a manuscript. Her topic was “Forgotten Women in Science,” which foreshadows her later work on the life and story of Henrietta Lacks. Since graduating, Skloot has published over 200 essays and stories in publications such as The New York Times, The New York Times Magazine, O: The Oprah Magazine, Discover, and Popular Science. She has worked as a correspondent for NPR and PBS, and she has taught creative writing and science journalism at the University of Pittsburgh, New York University, and the University of Memphis.

For her work, Skloot has received numerous awards and distinctions, including the Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize for Nonfiction, the National Academies of Science Best Book of the Year award, the American Association for the Advancement of Science Best Young Adult Book award, the Wellcome Trust Book Prize, and two Goodreads Choice Awards for Best Nonfiction Book of the Year and Best Debut Author of the year. She currently lives in Chicago, where she is working on a new book about the human-animal bond.

Study Guides on Works by Rebecca Skloot