Rebecca Skloot

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Rebecca Skloot
Skloot at the 2010 Texas Book Festival
Skloot at the 2010 Texas Book Festival
BornRebecca Lee Skloot[1]
September 19, 1972 (1972-09-19) (age 51)
Springfield, Illinois, U.S.
OccupationScience writer
Alma materPortland Community College
Colorado State University (BS)
University of Pittsburgh (MFA)
Notable workThe Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
RelativesFloyd Skloot, father

Rebecca L. Skloot /ˈsklt/ (born September 19, 1972) is an American science writer who specializes in science and medicine.[2] Her first book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (2010), was one of the best-selling new books of 2010, staying on The New York Times Bestseller list for over 6 years and eventually reaching #1.[3] It was adapted into a movie by George C. Wolfe, which premiered on HBO on April 22, 2017, and starred Rose Byrne as Skloot, and Oprah Winfrey as Lacks's daughter Deborah.[4]

Early life and education[edit]

Rebecca was born in Springfield, Illinois. She is the daughter of poet, novelist, and essayist Floyd Skloot[2] and Betsy McCarthy, a professional knitter and pattern book author. Skloot said, "in the Pacific Northwest, [her] roots [are] half New York Jew and half Midwestern Protestant."[5] She received her high school diploma from Metropolitan Learning Center in Portland, Oregon. After attending Portland Community College and becoming a Veterinary Technician, she received a B.S. in biological sciences from Colorado State University, and an MFA in creative nonfiction[2] from the University of Pittsburgh. She is a former vice president of the National Book Critics Circle.[6]


She has taught creative writing and science journalism at the University of Pittsburgh, New York University, and the University of Memphis.[7]

Skloot has published over 200 featured stories and essays.[2] Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The New York Times Magazine, O: The Oprah Magazine, Discover, and New York magazine.[6] Skloot is also a contributing editor at Popular Science and has worked as a correspondent for NPR's Radiolab and PBS's NOVA scienceNOW.[2]

Her first book, the #1 New York Times bestselling The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (2010),[8] is about Henrietta Lacks and the immortal cell line (known as HeLa) that came from her cancer cells in 1951.[2] It was named a New York Times notable book, and selected as the best book of the year by more than 60 publications. It was made into an HBO film produced by Oprah Winfrey and Alan Ball[9] with Rose Byrne portraying Skloot.[10]

In reviewing the book, Karen Long quotes Skloot and describes the long process to find a publisher: "The Lackses challenged everything I thought I knew about faith, science, journalism, and race," Skloot writes in her prologue. Stubbornly, she put a decade into telling this story, learning as much from the family as she was able to dig up herself. The book went through three publishing houses and four editors."[11] Skloot and Henrietta's daughter Deborah formed a link in the writing of this book, which Deborah sees as her mother's hand guiding them.

Her second book, exploring the science and ethics of human–animal relationships, was put under contract with Crown Publishing Group in 2011.[12][13] Her past work with animals in shelters, as a vet tech, in research facilities, and at an animal morgue prompted her interest in the ethical controversies surrounding animal use for science.[14] She discussed the topics of the book at the Chicago Humanities Festival in 2013.[15] She spoke with researchers at Harvard University about it in 2015.[16]

Awards and honors[edit]

Rebecca Skloot talks at the University of Missouri in March 2014.




Select articles


  1. ^ "Contemporary Authors, New Revision Series: Skloot, Floyd 1947-". 2009. Retrieved July 5, 2017.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Jessica Teisch, "Floyd Skloot & Rebecca Skloot", in Bookmarks, May/June 2010.
  3. ^ "Best Sellers: Paperback Nonfiction: Sunday, June 10th 2012". The New York Times. June 10, 2012. Archived from the original on March 3, 2016. Retrieved January 23, 2017.
  4. ^ "Oprah and Alan Ball to Make Film of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks for HBO". Archived from the original on November 7, 2016. Retrieved January 24, 2017.
  5. ^ Lopez Torregrosa, Luisita. "The Making of a Bestseller: Rebecca Skloot and a Great Obsession". Politics Daily. Archived from the original on March 28, 2010. Retrieved August 16, 2013.
  6. ^ a b "Official Website: Bio". Being Wicked. Retrieved March 17, 2010.
  7. ^ "Rebecca Skloot profile". University of Memphis: Department of English. Archived from the original on March 25, 2010. Retrieved March 17, 2010.
  8. ^ "New York Times Best Sellers 2010: Hardcover Nonfiction". New York Times. Retrieved July 5, 2017.
  9. ^ Oprah and Alan Ball to Make Film of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, May 12, 2010
  10. ^ Oprah Winfrey and Rose Byrne to Star in Film Adaptation of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Rebecca Skloot, August 19, 2016
  11. ^ Long, Karen R. (February 7, 2010). "In 'The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,' writer Rebecca Skloot shows us science's unsuspecting benefactor". The Plain Dealer. Cleveland. Retrieved July 5, 2017.
  12. ^ Boog, Jason (October 12, 2011). "Rebecca Skloot Inks Deal for Book on 'Human-Animal Bond'". Galley Cat. Retrieved July 5, 2017.
  13. ^ "Forthcoming book: The Human Animal Bond". Archived from the original on August 18, 2017. Retrieved July 5, 2017.
  14. ^ "Forthcoming Book « Rebecca Skloot". Retrieved November 26, 2018.
  15. ^ "Rebecca Skloot: Creatures Great and Small". Chicago Humanities Festival. 2013. Retrieved July 5, 2017.
  16. ^ Walsh, Colleen (October 7, 2015). "Chasing wonder to the finest detail". Harvard Gazette. Retrieved July 5, 2017.
  17. ^ "AAAS/Subaru Science Books & Film (SB&F) Prizes Celebrate Books that Engage Young Readers". February 16, 2011. Archived from the original on March 10, 2013. Retrieved May 3, 2016.
  18. ^ "Past Prizes – 2010". Wellcome Book Prize. Retrieved April 27, 2016.
  19. ^ "E. O. Wilson and Rebecca Skloot: 2010 Chicago Tribune Heartland Prizes". 2011. Archived from the original on November 5, 2013. Retrieved May 3, 2016.
  20. ^ "Winners in the MJA Open Book Awards 2011". April 21, 2011. Archived from the original on August 26, 2012. Retrieved May 3, 2016.
  21. ^ "Literary honors for Skloot, Ebert". Chicago Tribune. 2010. Retrieved May 3, 2016.
  22. ^ "Ambassador Book Awards 2011". 2011. Archived from the original on June 13, 2015. Retrieved May 3, 2016.
  23. ^ "2011 winners". September 15, 2011. Archived from the original on September 24, 2011. Retrieved May 3, 2016.

External links[edit]