Free Books, Free Knowledge


BALDWIN PARK, CA–Baldwin Park High School students in AP Biology were given a generous book donation this winter. With the help of author Rebecca Skloot and Nobel Prize- and Pulitzer Prize-winning American novelist Toni Morrison, the  class received The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.

The class acquired these novels by fundraising in the beginning of the school year on a website called Limeades For Learning.  Students entered codes from Sonic Drive-In to vote so the class could be fully funded. Mr. Smith, the teacher, wanted to fund for his class so they could  receive materials and tools for lab experiments. As the number of votes increased, Rebecca Skloot and Toni Morrison saw this opportunity to give out the books.bio2

Hellen Jimenez loves The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.

The novel tells about a poor black woman whose cells were taken without her knowledge in 1951. Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her, her cells rather, as HeLa. Henrietta’s cells have been bought and sold by the billions, yet she remains virtually unknown, and her family can’t afford health insurance. Her cells launched a medical revolution becoming one of the most important tools in medicine, such as developing the polio vaccine, cloning, gene mapping, in vitro fertilization, and much more.

Mr. Smith believes this was an amazing opportunity for his class to receive free copies of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.

“Not only did we get the books for the class, but we also have a contact with the author. This is a tremendous thing because now we can also learn more about how the [Rebecca Skloot] wrote the book.”

Hellen Jimenez, a student in the AP Biology class, could not stop reading. Combining science and history, the novel surely interests its readers.

“The book is such an attention grabber with its great incorporation of science into nonfiction. The idea of immortal cells, HeLa cells in particular, have left me absolutely fascinated,” said Hellen Jimenez.

Students voluntarily wanted to read The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, unlike most books the class read in the past year. Those who do not even enjoy reading continued having their heads in the books. Every day in the beginning of class, students quietly remained at their desks to read the novel. The students are very grateful and appreciative of this donation. The entire class later wrote thank you notes and letters to the author.

“After reading most of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, I have high hopes for more book donations,” Hellen Jimenez spoke of the future.

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