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Coastal Carolina University announces 2011 Big Read

March 15, 2011

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebeca Skloot has been selected as Coastal Carolina Universitys 2011 Big Read. Incoming freshmen will read the book in preparation for the fall semester, and the author or another speaker will visit the campus to talk to students in September.

The Big Read is a summer reading program designed to encourage intellectual dialogue among students, professors and the University community. Since it was initiated in 2004, its purpose has been to create a singular introductory learning forum across various disciplines, and to facilitate creative and critical thinking on a common theme.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks documents the life of Henrietta Lacks, whose cells are known to scientists the HeLa line. She was a poor Southern tobacco farmer who worked the same land as her slave ancestors, yet her cellstaken without her knowledgebecame one of the most important tools in medicine. The first immortal human cells grown in culture, HeLa cells are still alive today, though Lacks has been dead for more than 60 years. The cells were vital for developing the polio vaccine; uncovering secrets of cancer, viruses and the atom bombs effects; and leading to important advances in in-vitro fertilization, cloning and gene mapping. They have been bought and sold by the trillions. Yet Henrietta Lacks remains virtually unknown, buried in an unmarked grave.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is Skloots first book. She has published more than 200 featured stories and essays. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The New York Times Magazine and O: The Oprah Magazine, among others.

Books that have been selected for Big Reads in the past include: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon; Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi; Close to Shore: The Terrifying Shark Attacks of 1916 by Michael Capuzzo; Goat: A Memoir by Brad Land; Scratch Beginnings: Me, $25, and the Search for the American Dream by Adam Shepard; and The Brief History of the Dead by Kevin Brockmeier.

For more information call Scott Pleasant, chair of the Big Read program, at 843-349-4154, or go to