Join Us Monday, October 9th at 10:30 am as The Bookies Reading Group Discusses Midnight In Broad Daylight by Pamela Rotner Sakamoto

Meticulously researched and beautifully written, Midnight in Broad Daylight is the true story of a Japanese American family that found itself on opposite sides during World War II. An epic tale of family, separation, divided loyalties, love, reconciliation, loss, and redemption, Pamela Rotner Sakamoto’s history is a riveting chronicle of U.S.-Japan relations and of the Japanese experience in America.

midnight-in-broad-daylight.jpgAfter their father’s death, the Fukuhara children—all born and raised in the Pacific Northwest—moved with their mother to Hiroshima, their parents’ ancestral home. Eager to go back to America, Harry and his sister, Mary, returned there in the late 1930s. Then came Pearl Harbor. Harry and Mary were sent to an internment camp until a call came for Japanese translators, and Harry dutifully volunteered to serve his country. Back in Hiroshima, their brothers, Frank and Pierce, became soldiers in the Imperial Japanese Army.

As the war raged on, Harry, one of the finest bilingual interpreters in the United States Army, island-hopped across the Pacific, moving ever closer to the enemy—and to his younger brothers. But before the Fukuharas would have to face one another in battle, the U.S. detonated the atomic bomb over Hiroshima, gravely injuring tens of thousands of civilians, including members of the Fukuhara family.

Alternating between American and Japanese perspectives, Midnight in Broad Daylight captures the uncertainty and intensity of those charged with the fighting, as well as the deteriorating home front of Hiroshima—never depicted before in English—and provides a fresh look at the events surrounding the dropping of the first atomic bomb. Intimate and evocative, here is an indelible portrait of a resilient family, a scathing examination of racism and xenophobia, an homage to the tremendous Japanese American contribution to the American war effort, and an invaluable addition to the historical record of this extraordinary time.

Join Us Monday, November 13th at 10:30 am as The Bookies Reading Group Discusses The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

Intimate in feeling, astonishing in scope, and impossible to put down, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks captures the beauty and drama of scientific discovery, as well as its human consequences.

the-immortal-life-of-henrietta-lacks.jpgHer name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. She was a poor Southern tobacco farmer who worked the same land as her slave ancestors, yet her cells—taken without her knowledge—became one of the most important tools in medicine. The first “immortal” human cells grown in culture, they are still alive today, though she has been dead for more than sixty years. If you could pile all HeLa cells ever grown onto a scale, they’d weigh more than 50 million metric tons—as much as a hundred Empire State Buildings. HeLa cells were vital for developing the polio vaccine; uncovered secrets of cancer, viruses, and the atom bomb’s effects; helped lead to important advances like in vitro fertilization, cloning, and gene mapping; and have been bought and sold by the billions. 

Yet Henrietta Lacks remains virtually unknown, buried in an unmarked grave. 

Now Rebecca Skloot takes us on an extraordinary journey, from the “colored” ward of Johns Hopkins Hospital in the 1950s to stark white laboratories with freezers full of HeLa cells; from Henrietta’s small, dying hometown of Clover, Virginia — a land of wooden slave quarters, faith healings, and voodoo — to East Baltimore today, where her children and grandchildren live and struggle with the legacy of her cells. 

Henrietta’s family did not learn of her “immortality” until more than twenty years after her death, when scientists investigating HeLa began using her husband and children in research without informed consent. And though the cells had launched a multimillion-dollar industry that sells human biological materials, her family never saw any of the profits. As Rebecca Skloot so brilliantly shows, the story of the Lacks family — past and present — is inextricably connected to the dark history of experimentation on African Americans, the birth of bioethics, and the legal battles over whether we control the stuff we are made of. 

Over the decade it took to uncover this story, Rebecca became enmeshed in the lives of the Lacks family—especially Henrietta’s daughter Deborah, who was devastated to learn about her mother’s cells. She was consumed with questions: Had scientists cloned her mother? Did it hurt her when researchers infected her cells with viruses and shot them into space? What happened to her sister, Elsie, who died in a mental institution at the age of fifteen? And if her mother was so important to medicine, why couldn’t her children afford health insurance? 

Intimate in feeling, astonishing in scope, and impossible to put down, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks captures the beauty and drama of scientific discovery, as well as its human consequences.