The book is about Henrietta Lacks and the immortal cell line, known as HeLa, that came from Lacks's cervical cancer cells in 1951. Skloot became interested in Lacks after a biology teacher referenced her, but didn't know much about her. Skloot began conducting extensive research on her and worked with Lacks' family to create the book. The book is notable for its science writing and dealing with ethical issues of race and class in medical research. Skloot said that some of the information was taken from the journal of Deborah Lacks, Henrietta Lacks's daughter, as well as from "archival photos and documents, scientific and historical research." It is Skloot's first book.
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