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Common Reading

Common Reading

What is the Common Reading Experience at SXU?

The Common Reading Experience at SXU provides first-year students with one of their first opportunities for collegiate academic engagement. The assigned book will serve as the basis for programs and discussions beginning at FOCUS (where you will receive your copy of the book), during First Day for First-Years, and throughout the fall semester in student's Transitions class as well as other Level I General Education courses. A series of social, cultural and academic activities – field trips, films, lectures, panels, and performances are offered to support the theme and content of the current year's selection. This all-campus initiative connects various disciplines and facilitates creativity, community and critical thinking among students, faculty and staff.

Common Reading Selection for 2013

The Immortal Life of Henrietta LacksThis year's Common Reading Selection is The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot.

Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. She was a poor black tobacco farmer whose cells—taken without her knowledge in 1951—became one of the most important tools in medicine, vital for developing the polio vaccine, cloning, gene mapping, in vitro fertilization, and more. Henrietta's cells have been bought and sold by the billions, yet she remains virtually unknown, and her family can't afford health insurance.

In addition to being a required text for Transitions, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks will also serve as the basis for discussion on your first day on campus during First Day for First-Years scheduled for August 23, 2013. You will also discuss the book in your other General Education courses, especially your First Year Seminar and/or Philosophy 140, and at a series of guest speakers and events held throughout the fall semester that will help you consider Ms. Skloot's story about the life and legacy of a of a woman who unwittingly became immortal.

This site contains information about Common Reading events and also hosts discussion guides and resources that will aid in your careful reading of the text. If you have any questions, please contact Campus Life at campuslife@sxu.edu.

Top 12 Interesting Facts About ILHL

  1. HeLa cells were used to create a vaccine for polio in 1954 by Jonas Salk.
  2. Lacks' famous cell line, known as HeLa, has played a key role in the development of cures and treatments for AIDS, infertility and cancer, as well as research into cloning, gene mapping and radiation.
  3. Henrietta's story shaped the ethical process for Medical Experimentation and Informed Consent. Now doctors must follow strict legal and ethical guidelines.
  4. Her cells were commercialized and have generated millions of dollars in profit for the medical researchers who patented her tissue.
  5. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is being adapted into an HBO film produced by Oprah Winfrey and Alan Ball.
  6. In 1960 Henrietta's cells went up in the second satellite ever in orbit!
  7. HeLa weighs more in death than she did in life. If all the HeLa cells that have been produced were weighed, they would add up to 50 million metric tons and if laid out, they would wrap around the earth three times.
  8. It took Rebecca Skloot ten years to research and write The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.
  9. A scientist accidentally poured a chemical on a HeLa cell that spread out its tangled chromosomes. Later on, scientists used this technique to determine that humans have 46 chromosomes—23 pairs—not 48, which provided the basis for making several types of genetic diagnoses.
  10. More than 60 critics named The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks as one of the Best Books of 2010, and over 30 colleges have selected it for its Common Reading.
  11. Law and Order used it at the basis of an episode.
  12. There is footage of Henrietta Lacks dancing in Turners Station soon before her death. In the short film clip, she smiles seductively at the camera and waves her hands in the air before bringing them down to adjust her curlers.