Study Guide

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks Chapter 10

By Rebecca Skloot

Chapter 10

The Other Side of the Tracks (1999)

  • Skloot travels to Clover, Virginia to learn more about Henrietta and look for her grave (which is unmarked).
  • When she arrives there, she finds a town that's pretty much died: the shops are closed and abandoned.
  • Main Street is deadly quiet, except for "The Greeter," a white man who spends his day waving at the few cars that come through Clover.
  • He tells Skloot that Lacks Town, Henrietta's home, is literally on the other side of the tracks.
  • Skloot sees poverty and decay as she drives up and down Lacks Town road. Eventually, she's flagged down by "Cootie," a 70-year-old man who's Henrietta's first cousin.
  • His real name is Hector Henry, but he got the nickname when he contracted polio as a child.
  • He invites Skloot in and tells her that he has some information on Henrietta that she might like. But Cootie only has the picture of Henrietta from the Rolling Stone article. What Skloot learns is that Henrietta was a sweetheart and everybody loved her.
  • She even took care of Cootie when he was stricken with polio and told him she wished she could cure him.
  • Skloot also sees that none of Henrietta's relatives really understand what her cells were used for or even what they are.
  • Cootie tells Skloot that some of her family believes that Henrietta's sickness was brought on by Voodoo, or could be that the doctors at Hopkins had killed her.
  • He explains that since the doctors said they'd never seen an illness like Henrietta's, he was sure there were some supernatural forces at work.
  • He says that people in Lacks Town believed that spirits brought disease, and gives Skloot some examples of wicked spirits that did just that (including a creepy, gigantic hog spirit).
  • Cootie's thoughts reflect the local opinion that either spirits or doctors got Henrietta.

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