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Deborah’s Background

Just out of curiosity, I want to know everyone’s opinion on the reason why Skloot chose to give such a detailed history of Deborah. I personally think she mentioned her brutal childhood so as to give us an idea of why her personality might have been the way it was when Skloot interviewed her. However, I’m certain that there has to be more to it. Deborah is not the subject of the book, so why do you guys think Skloot chose to dedicate several chapters to dictating her past?

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Categories: Uncategorized
  1. September 13, 2011 at 8:05 pm

    This book is about Skloot’s search for knowledge and understanding of the person behind the famous HeLa cells, but I believe that through her journey she discovered that Deborah was searching for the same thing. Growing up, Deborah was haunted by the lack of information she had about her mother and all she really wanted was to know more about who her mother was. Therefore when Skloot discovered this fact, I think, she wanted to not only share Henrietta’s story with the world, but with Deborah. Deborah becomes an essential part of the book as the two travel from place to place to learn together about Henrietta and the buzz that surrounds the HeLa cells. By including Deborah’s past it allows readers to understand why she joins Skloot in the mission for knowledge. Like you (Oskar.S) said her past explains her personality and it also explains why she becomes so involved in the end of the book. Just like Skloot, Deborah longed to know more about Henrietta, so it makes sense that she would become such a key character in the book.

  2. MeganS
    September 13, 2011 at 11:07 pm

    I think the fact that we gained so much knowledge about just Deborah enabled us to really understand the story on a much deeper level. One of Henrietta’s last sentences was, “You make sure Day takes care of them children. Especially my baby girl Deborah.” (85-86). As the quote demonstrates, Skloot pays specific attention in capturing Dale’s perspective to offer us a more personal way with which to look at Henrietta’s situation. In my opinion, she did an amazing job at just that, giving us insight into how the HeLa cells impacted far more than just science.

  3. September 16, 2011 at 3:40 am

    I think that the background knowledge was needed to understand where Deborah was coming from. Her and her siblings have had a lot of struggles to overcome and she has done better than many of the others. However, the knowledge of her mother’s cells weighs heavier on Deborah as well as the rest of the other burdens of the family. This makes the relationship between Skloot and Deborah closer, like you (rachstan) said. Deborah’s brothers are more concerned with the money they could receive than the truth about their mother for much of the story and see reporters as just a bother. Deborah was excited the first time Rebecca called and wanted to know what happened to her mother, as well as having other people hear the story.

  4. September 16, 2011 at 7:53 pm

    Perhaps Deborah was a substitute for Henrietta. Knowing Deborah was an important step to knowing who Henrietta is and it is the second best thing to personally knowing Henrietta. Deborah started Skloot off on her journey to find out who Henrietta off. When she could contribute no more, she began to do her own research, with the mutual help of Skloot. Eventually the stress of wanting to know more about her mother almost killed her.

  5. September 18, 2011 at 7:37 pm

    My theory on why Skloot chose to include so much information about Deborah is pretty straightforward – it made for a better book. If Skloot had chosen to write solely about Henrietta and her cells, the book would probably have been about half the length and not nearly as interesting. She would have been forced to write much more about the science of the cells and therefore eliminate much of the emotion from the story as the whole. By including her interactions with Deborah, Skloot writes a more well rounded book, adding an emotional connection that would not be present if all she wrote about was Henrietta and her cells. I am not saying this is a bad thing simply stating that without Deborah’s story this book wouldn’t be the same; Skloot and Deborah connected on a level that the reader is able to relate to and enjoy reading about, so naturally it made sense for Skloot to add this detail to better the book as a whole.

  6. September 18, 2011 at 8:03 pm

    But why Deborah? Skloot met with other members of the Lacks family and interviewed them, maybe not as thoroughly as Deborah, but contact was made nonetheless. Wouldn’t it have made more sense for her to vividly depict Day’s childhood, rather than Deborah’s? Day was, after all, Henrietta’s husband and the father of all their children. I think Skloot could have gotten much more information to the reader had she discussed Day’s childhood.

  7. September 19, 2011 at 3:03 am

    I think Skloot spent so much time talking about Deborah in particular because she felt a connection with Deborah that she couldn’t make with any of Henrietta’s other children. Deborah and Skloot are both women and both had a deep urge to find out who Henrietta Lacks really was, not as a contribution to the scientific community, but as a person. Skloot begins the book talking about how she had this desire to learn more about Henrietta Lacks after hearing her name mentioned in a lecture and then proceeds throughout the rest of the book intermittently putting in chapters about her continuous struggle to learn who Henrietta is. But those few years of curiosity for Skloot were just a summary of the life-time of questions that constituted Deborah’s life. Simply put, Deborah and Skloot were not just connected, their goals and dreams were, in a sense intertwined; and that is why, in my view, Skloot devoted a lot of time to Deborah’s life in the book.

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