The other day I was telling my cousin the story of Henrietta Lacks. I don’t know how it came up, probably amidst a conversation on the atrocities perpetuated on Black bodies. She was shocked to hear that Lack’s HeLa cells could be so central to science and medicine when Henrietta died in poverty. Neither she or her family were compensated for their scientific and medical contributions.
I could have told her about the Tuskegee syphilis experiment but the conversation drifted to other matters. Having an interest in such topics and history is what piqued my interest in Megan Gidding’s Lakewood. In it a college student takes part in a government funded experiment in order to dig when her grandmother dies.
I’m only a few pages in, but so far she has been to the facility housing the experiment and the isolation and descriptions of the large and rundown house give it a gothic feel. However, it’s also rooted in the very real survival struggles that families face all too often. Lena’s mother suffers from an illness which has hampered her ability to earn a living or take care of her daughter. Much of Lena’s motivation in participating is the study is having few options, mounting medical bills and the desperate need to take a job that pays more than minimum wage.
I’m looking forward to delving into this story more over the holiday weekend.