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Mom: Son's Assigned Book on Cells Is 'Porn'

Jackie Sims wants to ban best-selling biography about Henrietta Lacks
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 9, 2015 10:14 AM CDT
Mom: Son's Assigned Book on Cells Is 'Porn'
This 1940s photo shows Henrietta Lacks.   (AP Photo/Lacks Family via the Henrietta Lacks Foundation)

(Newser) – Pornographic material surely doesn't belong on a high school reading list, but what about a best-selling biography about a woman who changed the course of medical history? If you ask Tennessee mom Jackie Sims, the two are one and the same. Sims is appealing to Knox County Schools to ban The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks after she says her son, a 15-year-old student at L&N STEM Academy, was assigned the book for summer reading and disturbed by certain passages, reports WBIR; he was then assigned another title. The 2010 book tells the story of Henrietta Lacks, a poor black woman diagnosed with cervical cancer in 1951. Without her consent, scientists took Lacks' cells, which have allowed for "such innovations as the polio vaccine, cloning, gene mapping, in vitro fertilization, and more," reports the Los Angeles Times.

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One particular passage describes how Lacks found a lump on her cervix. "Henrietta slid a finger inside herself and rubbed it across her cervix until she found what she somehow knew she'd find: a hard lump, deep inside," author Rebecca Skloot writes, per the Guardian. The book also contains accounts of infidelity. "I was shocked that there was so much graphic information in the book," Sims says, calling it "pornographic." On Twitter, Skloot says Sims "confuses gynecology with pornography" and other parents are backing her up. "I respect each parent's right to decide what they want their child to read" but "don't take that opportunity away from all the students," says one. Skloot notes L&N's assistant principal has offered his support, telling her that students will next read Fahrenheit 451, which, ironically, covers book burnings. (Read more Henrietta Lacks stories.)

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