Monday, 28 March 2011

Links for the next meeting - The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

Links on Rebecca Skloot's own site, including videos and audio

Adam Curtis' blog on the BBC site, which has the full length 1990s documentary that is referred to a lot in the book

The Henrietta Lacks Foundation, set up by Rebecca Skloot to help the descendants of Henrietta Lacks through education and healthcare payments.

(Donate here)

(Or, donate directly to the family here)

"The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is a fascinating book for people interested in scientific or medical research, but its real achievement lies in it’s humane – and deeply human – look at both Mrs. Lacks and her descendants. It’s a wake up call to the medical community to remember that while they may be working with highly advanced technology and science, there’s a human being – a suffering human being, with people who love him or her – at the bottom of it all."

A review in The Guardian
"It would have been better to trust the story and tell it in as straightforward a way as possible. Skloot's final discussion of the ethics of the use of human tissue is followed by nine pages of acknowledgments that are more than usually fatuous and self-regarding, and the author's determination to write herself into the story distracts the reader from the dense factual background. But The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks succeeds despite itself: it is a fascinating, harrowing and necessary book, marred only slightly by the fact that the author wishes to be considered a heroine for writing it."

Plus, a bit off topic, David Simon's article about a contemporary woman living in Baltimore, the actress Felicia 'Snoop' Pearson
"In an essay published two years ago in Time magazine, the writers of The Wire made the argument that we believe the war on drugs has devolved into a war on the underclass, that in places like West and East Baltimore, where the drug economy is now the only factory still hiring and where the educational system is so crippled that the vast majority of children are trained only for the corners, a legal campaign to imprison our most vulnerable and damaged citizens is little more than amoral. And we said then that if asked to serve on any jury considering a non-violent drug offense, we would move to nullify that jury's verdict and vote to acquit. Regardless of the defendant, I still believe such a course of action would be just in any case in which drug offenses—absent proof of violent acts—are alleged."

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Name your favourite book, and donate to the Ministry of Stories

The Ministry of Stories is a reading & writing centre for young people, based in Hoxton.

Modelled on Dave Eggers' Pirate Supplies Store in San Francisco, it "provides a free space for fresh writing by young people. Here in Hoxton we provide workshops and one-to-one mentoring. The services are provided by volunteers: local writers, artists and teachers, all giving their time and talent for free.

The MoS is inspired by young people, and aims to inspire them to transform their lives through writing. We work closely with schools, supporting the work of teachers, but our great benefit is that we provide one-to-one mentoring for young people to enjoy imaginative stories, improve language skills, increase abilities in communication, add to social and educational confidence."

To donate money through Just giving, visit this page and donate the amount that your favourite book costs. Stephen Fry picked one of our previous reads, The Confederacy of Dunces as his favourite, so presumably donated £8.99.

Donate - it could change someone's life.

Monday, 7 March 2011

The Waterstones / Grazia quiz for World Book Day

On Saturday 3 of us went to Waterstones in Piccadilly to take part in the book quiz for World Book Day, sponsored by Grazia. (Grazia run their own book club in the magazine).

It was interesting to see so many other book groups in one place, and it was great to see so much free booze on the table!

The quiz was about 7 rounds (characters, pictures, first lines, missing vowels etc) and was great fun.

David Nicholls was there, and we managed to ask a couple of quick questions about the film of One Day. ;-)

We didn't win, but we didn't come last either, and in our defence there were only 3 of us...

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

'Room' discussed at

Thanks to Kelly for sending this link to Slate, where there's a podcast discussion of our April book Room by Emma Donoghue.

Or you can play it on the site. - the link again!