The book tells the true story of a poor black woman who died in 1951 of cervical cancer, but whose cancer cells, taken without her knowledge, led to great advances in biomedical research.
Clive Anderson, chair of the prize judges, explained why the book was a worthy winner of the prize in a release:
This is an engaging account of the life of Henrietta Lacks who died in Baltimore nearly 60 years ago and the immortal life of her cancer cells, which continue to replicate in research laboratories around the world to this day. There are several stories to be told: the changing attitudes and ethics of the medical profession; the economics of healthcare; and the successes and slip ups of modern scientific methods. In addition, the book reveals the human story of Henrietta Lacks' family, who the author got to know in the course of her extensive research.
In a recent 1:2:1 podcast, Skloot discussed how she first learned about Lacks' cells and how she brought this remarkable story to life in the book.