Western Reads is a campus-wide reading program that introduces new students to the intellectual communities and conversations of the University. Copies of the book are provided for first year students, and year long programming provides a range of activities and events including:

  • an author visit
  • in-class book discussions
  • interdisciplinary faculty and community member-based panels
  • contests, fan events, and guest speakers

DVD recordings of Dr. Joy DeGruy's talk and presentation are available for checkout in Wilson Library.

Upcoming Events

Panel Discussion 1
Panel Discussion 2
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Western Reads book!

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks book cover

"Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. She was a poor Southern tobacco farmer who worked the same land as her slave ancestors, yet her cells - taken without her knowledge - became one of the most important tools in medicine. The first "immortal" human cells grown in culture, they are still alive today, though she has been dead for more than sixty years. If you could pile all HeLa cells ever grown onto a scale, they'd weigh more than 50 million metric tons - as much as a hundred Empire State Buildings. HeLa cells were vital for developing the polio vaccine; uncovered secrets of cancer, viruses, and the atom bomb's effects; helped lead to important advances like in vitro fertilization, cloning, and gene mapping; and have been bought and sold by the billions." Rebecca Skloot takes us on an extraordinary journey, from the "colored" ward of Johns Hopkins Hospital in the 1950s to stark white laboratories with freezers full of HeLa cells, from Henrietta's small, dying hometown of Clover, Virginia - a land of wooden slave quarters, faith healings, and voodoo - to East Baltimore today, where her children and grandchildren live and struggle with the legacy of her cells."

Page Updated 11.27.2017