Scavenger Hunt Kick Off!

The Common Book scavenger hunt has officially started! For more details and to play, check out the Scavenger Hunt page on this blog!

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2015-2016 Common Book: The United States of Appalachia: How Southern Mountaineers Brought Independence, Culture, and Enlightenment to America

Beyond its mythology in the American imagination, Appalachia has long been a vanguard region in the United States-—a cradle of U.S. freedom and independence, and a hot bed for literature and music. Some of the most quintessential and daring American innovations, rebellions, and social movements have emerged from an area often stereotyped as a quaint backwater. In the process, immigrants from the Appalachian diaspora have become some of our nation’s most famous leaders.

-Summary from Author’s website

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In Common: Want to Participate?

Want to contribute to the Common Academic Experience Convocation on Oct. 4 (10:50 a.m., CPAC)? We’re looking for questions to ask our speaker, David Lacks, Henrietta Lacks’ son. He will be accompanied by another family member also. Rather than a lecture format, the presentation will be an interview with our guests answering questions.

What question would you like to ask a family member about the events and issues in The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks? Send your questions to me cluther@pstcc.edu by the end of the day Sept. 13, Thursday. We will select questions from those submitted to include as part of the interview. You do not need to have finished the book to contribute. Based on what you have read so far, what are you curious about?

Carol Luther [cjl]
Common Book Committee, Chair

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In Common: Getting Started

Welcome to the Common Book Blog!

I’ll be trying to write every couple of weeks about ideas in The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, resources in the ERC, and upcoming programs. Join the conversation with your own thoughts and reactions to the text. The blog is for students AND faculty AND staff.

To get started I want to mention two visual resources. At this link you will find a video of the CBS Sunday Morning report on The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. It provides a good overview of the book. Here you will see Rebecca Skloot being interviewed and Lacks family members commenting on the book, as well as pictures of people and places mentioned in the book (George Gey, Clover, Henrietta Lacks’ apartment in Baltimore, and so forth.). Length – about 10 minutes.

Has it been a while since you took Biology? Find Dr. Susan McMahon’s Powerpoint lecture on cells here. Dr. McMahon explains some of the cell science described in the book in an easy to understand style. Her presentation wowed the faculty who attended her lab sessions during In-service. Length – about 30 minutes.

Feel free to chime in at any time. I look forward to exchanging ideas.

Carol  Luther [cjl]
Chair, Common Book Committee

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2012 – 13 Common Book

Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks bookmarkThe Common Book for 2012-13 is The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks gives the history of an episode in the medical profession that had far-reaching consequences.  In 1951, Henrietta Lacks was the unwitting donor of a cell line that is “immortal”; the unique ability of her (cancerous) cells to be easily kept alive and grown makes them the medium through which many of the twentieth-century advancements in cell biology are derived.  The polio vaccine, for example, was developed through the use of HeLa cells, as they were named. The book raises a host of important questions: Who actually “owns” the cells?  What happens when businesses start to profit in a big way both from the cells and the research they make possible? Do Henrietta Lacks’ descendants have any rights to the cells or the monies they generate?

While the science and medical elements are fascinating, the book also covers issues in civil rights, law, privacy, ethics, psychology, sociology, and business. It presents a history of medical and social developments of the second half of the twentieth century. Students and instructors will find many areas to explore, reflect on, and debate.

Rebecca Skloot has received praise for her graceful writing and masterful ability to organize and explain complex material. The Washington Post says that The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks  is “a deftly crafted investigation of a social wrong committed by the medical establishment, as well as the scientific and medical miracles to which it led.” It was named a New York Times Notable Book, an American Library Association Notable Book, and a Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year among many other honors. Oprah Winfrey’s production company has purchased the film rights.

We look forward to another year of engaging and enlightening Common Academic Experience with The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.

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