Study Guide

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks Chapter 19

By Rebecca Skloot

Chapter 19

"The Most Critical Time on This Earth is Now" (1966-1973)

  • Back to the Lacks family timeline. Deborah got pregnant with her first child at 16. Bobbette insisted that she finish school and, with her help, she did.
  • Baby bro Joe wasn't so lucky. He couldn't get control of his anger and he wound up spending most of his nine months of military service in solitary confinement.
  • He was discharged after the military docs determined he was psychologically unsuited to military life.
  • When Joe got back home, he was harassed at knifepoint by a guy named Ivy. This will not end well.
  • Ivy eventually beat Joe to a pulp, and then Joe stabbed Ivy to death the next morning.
  • The family helped Joe run back to Clover, but his violent, drunken behavior continued. He ended up demanding to be allowed to turn himself in to the police in Baltimore.
  • Joe pleaded guilty to second-degree murder. The judge was made to understand that Joe had significant psychological problems and that there were other mitigating life issues for him.
  • In the end, he got a sentence of fifteen years.
  • Joe fought a lot in prison until he started reading the Koran and converted to Islam, changing his name to Zakariyya Bari Abdul Rahman.
  • Deborah was moving on in life, too. She married the father of her child, but quickly learned that Alfred had a violent streak.
  • He often beat her while on drugs; he also began selling out of their house.
  • As the violence escalated, Deborah fought back. She stuck a knife into Alfred's chest as a warning.
  • It ended when Deborah pushed an intoxicated Alfred down the stairs and then dumped him outside in the middle of the Baltimore winter.
  • Bobbette convinced Deborah that moving out of the house was a better option than murdering Alfred outright.

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