Trusting the Reliable Narrator: Narratological and Lacanian Perspectives on "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks"
Phil Goldman's paper Trusting the Reliable Narrator: Narratological and Lacanian Perspectives on The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks was awarded second place in the 2015 Open Books - Open Minds Writing Award.
Rebecca Skloot, as the author of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, has to overcome a great deal of presumption and quite a few obstacles to win/earn the trust, not only of the Lacks family, and in particular Deborah, Henrietta’s daughter, but of the readers of the book itself. Skloot is, as were many members of the medical community who dealt with Henrietta and her family, white, educated and privileged. There are innumerable examples of African-Americans, and other underclass populations, that had been taken advantage of by the white, educated and privileged. The Lacks family, being among those taken advantage of, were well-versed in such stories. Rebecca Skloot is well-versed as well and brings this to the attention of the reader. She is laboring under the burden of history and must separate herself somehow from this baggage in order to tell the story. Is she worthy of the family’s trust? Is she worthy of the reader’s?