Book Club Night

Yesterday evening, eleven of us gathered to discuss Rebecca Skloot’s bestseller, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. Not my usual fare, but I was intrigued by this biography of a poor black woman whose cells were taken without her knowledge.

In 1951, Henrietta Lacks, a mother of five in Baltimore, was diagnosed with cervical cancer.  Before administering radium for the first time, the attending doctor cut two dime-size samples of tissue, one cancerous and one healthy, from Henrietta’s cervix. The doctor gave the tissue to George Gey, a scientist who was trying to establishing a continuously reproducing, or immortal, human cell line for use in cancer research. While all previous human samples had failed, Henrietta’s cancerous tissue continued to grow and has yielded an estimated 50 million metric tones of HeLa cells (hee-lah is an abbreviation of Henrietta’s name) since that time. Her cells have helped develop the polio vaccine, gene mapping, in vitro fertilization and more.

Skloot, an award winning writer who specializes in narrative science writing, took over a decade to research and write the book. During that time, she became enmeshed in the lives of Henrietta’s descendants, especially her daughter, Deborah, who was devastated to learn about her mother’s cells. Skloot also brought to light the dark history of experimentation on African Americans

We all agreed that the book raises many questions about biothethics. How should research be conducted? Who should benefit from it? Why didn’t John Hopkins offer some kind of compensation to the Lacks’ family? As Deborah so poignantly commented, “If our mother had done so much for medicine, how come her family can’t afford to see no doctors?”

The Hunger Games

I couldn’t believe the hype that surrounded this film. For the past month, I have heard it mentioned on almost every talk show and newscast.

While I don’t usually read or watch dystopic science fiction, I was curious. I wanted to see for myself if it was indeed the movie of 2012.

Yesterday, I joined the millions of other moviegoers who decided to view this film on its opening weekend.

The storyline is a compelling one.

Katniss Everdeen, played by Jennifer Lawrence, is a 16-year-old girl living in Panem, a post-apocalyptic North America. In a brutal annual lottery called the Reaping, two competitors–one boy and one girl between the ages of 12 and 16– are selected from each region to fight in the Hunger Games.  Only one person can survive and his/her district will receive riches and favor from the ruling class. Katniss bravely volunteers to step in for her terrified younger sister, Prim (Willow Shields).  Katniss and her partner, Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) struggle to hold on to their humanity as they deal with conflicted feelings in this fight-to-the-death competition on live television.

Survivor. Slumdog Millionaire. The Amazing Race. As I watched the film, these programs came to mind. While the film is set in the distant future, there are many unsettling parallels to the present.

Disturbing. Riveting. Memorable. These are some of the adjectives I would use to describe this futuristic tale of adventure. I may actually pick up Suzanne Collins’ second and third books in this trilogy.

Watch the trailer:

It’s a Cozy!

Whenever I tell people the title of my book—A Season for Killing Blondes—they all smile. Even the blondes.

And when I mention that it’s a cozy, they look puzzled and often ask, “What’s a cozy?”

I explain.

A cozy is a mystery which includes a bloodless crime and contains little violence, sex, or coarse language. The sleuth is usually female and not a medical examiner, detective or police officer. She could be a librarian, florist, teacher, homemaker, caterer…Whatever her occupation, the reader becomes emotionally involved and connected to the sleuth and all the other characters in the book.

It’s a “fun read” that engages the reader. By the end of the story, the criminal is punished and order is restored to the community.

Miss Marple and Jessica Fletcher are good examples of cozy mystery sleuths.

A New Beginning

While I have blogged before, this is my first website. I am grateful to John Agress, my instructor at ed2go, for his well-structured lessons and encouragement throughout the course. I enjoyed creating this hybrid site and experimenting  with WordPress.

In this blog, I intend to write (and rant) about my writing journey, recent books and movies, and the many winding roads of my retirement.

I welcome all your comments, especially those from other writers and retirees.