In Part 3 of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, the Lacks family spends a lot of time trying to answer a variety of questions. Questions to reporters, questions from doctors, and questions they had themselves about their unique situation they found themselves in. Deborah Lacks was different from the rest of her family. As she coasted to a more mature 30 years old, she shifted away from the mentality of much of the family, which partly was to try to make money off of the HeLa cells from Johns Hopkins or anyone that would offer it. Their endeavor included handing out pamphlets and other reading material explaining their version of the story of Henrietta, their best attempt to spread the word about their beloved family member.
While others focused on the financial implications surrounding the HeLa cells, Deborah took it upon herself to learn more about her mother and the science surrounding her cells. While not always an easy task, she did what she could for herself around working two jobs for her two children, always living in fear of what disease or sickness she would be dealt. Initially, she was angry and afraid about everything that had happened and what she thought could potentially happen to her. At a visit to Johns Hopkins, Deborah met Victor A. McKusick, often known as “The Father of Genetics,” initially to have blood drawn for research, which was not the reason she thought she was at the hospital. She threw many a question towards McKusick, who gave her complex answers and even signed a copy of his genetics book and gave it to her. This seemed to be a turning point for Deborah, where her frustration over the year slowly started to dwindle and turn into a curiosity to learn and simply be informed about the cells and what her mother went through.
In “Least They Can Do,” Deborah bought a dictionary, a notebook and some science textbooks and began taking notes and making a real effort to learn more about cells. She educated herself and almost used it as a coping mechanism, while writing her thoughts down in her journal next to important lines from the textbook. Deborah’s maturity that came with age and after having two kids makes her an interesting character to focus on. I think she came to grips with everything that had happened by seeking out information herself and becoming more informed about her mother.