Study Guide

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks Chapter 9

By Rebecca Skloot

Chapter 9

Turner Station (1999)

  • Skloot travels to Baltimore in the hopes that she'll meet with Sonny, Lawrence, Day and Deborah.
  • But so far, nobody's calling her back, despite the agreed upon plan.
  • As she waits, she reads a 1976 Rolling Stone article written by Michael Rogers about the Lacks family.
  • She realizes that he was in the exact same hotel room in 1976 as she is now, and doing the exact same thing—waiting for the Lackses to call.
  • Skloot decides to try to find Henrietta's old house in Turner Station, but runs into some trouble. First, it's hard to locate on a map. Seems it no longer officially exists.
  • She gives some history of the neighborhood, which had been a boomtown during World War II because of the nearby steel mill. And like most boomtowns, it went bust after the war.
  • The demolition of the workers' homes left many black people homeless and turned the place into an industrial/urban wasteland. Not many people still lived in the neighborhood.
  • And this is what Skloot experiences when she drives through Turner Station looking for any traces of Henrietta's old life.
  • She gets lost and feels anxious, like the black people in the neighborhood who are watching her are wondering what a young white woman is doing there.
  • In her search of the neighborhood, she runs into a man in front of a church where community meetings about a Henrietta Lacks Museum took place.
  • He promises to take her to Courtney Speed, who'd started a foundation for the creation of a museum.
  • When she arrives at Speed's grocery ( a rusted out trailer), she meets a group of men who are "Mama" Speed's sons. It turns out that Courtney Speed serves not only as a local businesswoman but also as a mentor to the local children.
  • And when Skloot meets her, she understands why the young men all look up to her. She's beautiful and kind, but also strong and firm.
  • When Skloot tells Speed why she's there, Speed kind of freaks out. She wants to know if someone called Cofield sent her. Skloot explains who she is and how she got there.
  • But Speed doesn't want to talk to her until she gets permission from the Lacks family. She seems very suspicious.
  • Still, she takes Skloot to the library to get a BBC documentary called The Way of All Flesh about Henrietta Lacks and sets Skloot up in her dilapidated beauty salon to watch it.
  • Skloot has been trying to get her hands on this video for a while.
  • It's on this video that Skloot first sees Clover, Virginia, and realizes that she has to go to Henrietta's first home to learn more about her.

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