TarValon.Net’s December 2020 Recap

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Well, we did it team, we’ve finally arrived at the end of the longest century of the longest day of the longest month of our lives. 2020 has been so timey-wimey that it feels like it was only March yesterday, and yet somehow it is New Year’s at the end of the week! Gracious. I am firmly in agreement with our very own Katarianna’s #coronavirustictoklessons that none of this year’s birthdays count toward our aging, which seems very appropriate for a site full of Aes Sedai. I really do think that getting to the end of the year healthy, and relatively happy, is an accomplishment in its own right. You should be proud of yourselves no matter what!

 

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Please join us in welcoming these members to their new positions:

 

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Our newly-retired Mayor, Jahily al’Karee, joined the Tower! Welcome to our newest JM!

 

PositionsDec2020

 

The Department of Marketing has an open-ended, flexible invitation to join them on your own terms, for as much or as little time as you want. If you’re interested in writing, graphic design or social media this is the Department for you! Check them out!

 

Our thoughts are with Team Jordan’s Wilson Grooms as he battles cancer. The family requests privacy at this time and is thankful for the community’s support.

 

Finally, we’d like to wrap up this summary by wishing our very own Mother, Serinia Edoras, the happiest of birthday months in this magical year where we do not age. We appreciate you, and all the others who work tirelessly behind the scenes to keep this place up and running. Go Ohio sports ball!
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NaNoWriMo 2020

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Ready, Set, Write!

 

Ah, November, otherwise known as NaNoWriMo, the month that strikes an equal combination of fear and joy in the heart of a writer. So many questions abound, so many plot paths to pursue. Am I a “Planner,” well prepared in advance? Or am I a “Pantster,” letting my fingers fly as my unknown to me story flows out of my flashing fingers. Oh how I ever wish I was a Planner, but considering that it is 10:30pm on November 1st, and I am writing this instead of a well plotted out scene should tell you the answer to that question!
 

To learn more about NaNoWriMo, check out their website. In short they are a 501(c)(3) group focused on promoting the creation of new literary works. This is their twenty first year hosting thousands of writers from around the globe and challenging them to write, write, write! The “official” challenge is to write 50,000 words in the month of November, but participants are encouraged to set their own goals. Mine, for example, is to write for at least thirty minutes a day, every day. It would be amazing to get a story from that, but I am more interested in simply getting back into a good habit of daily writing again. Hopefully after coming to the table and writing every day for thirty days it will stick.
 

Several of our TarValon.Net members have been active participants and winners over the years. Please feel free to join us in the planning thread started by Cahalan Sothron in the Fine Arts & Literary Pursuits forum. We will also have a special Discord channel available to us on the TarValon.Net Discord. If you are interested in joining a group on the NaNoWriMo website itself, please send a request to BlueDina (I am so very creative with my user name, ha!) This group is limited to 20 members, per their site restrictions, so please only join if you actually intend to participate on their site.
 

Here is a small badge edited for you to wear to show your commitment to NaNoWriMo!
 

NaNoWriMoBadge
 

If you decide to participate, at any level, we hope you come up with something you love, and that you are able to meet the goals you set for yourself. Once the month is over, come tell us about your goals, and what you created.
 

Now, stop reading, and go write!!!

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“Was It Something I Read?”

Was it something I read

A review of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot.

Available in Paperback and Hardcover from the TarValon.Net Bookshop.

 

Greetings Fellow Tar Valonians and Fans of WOT. I am Adina Sedai of the Blue Ajah, and I love books. All kinds of books, any genre, for all ages. Please join me in my reading adventures!

 

Why I chose this book:
Given the nature of our site, I feel it is safe to say that many of us are fantasy and fiction lovers – however, I wanted to start this series out with a bit of “reality” as it impacts the events of our world right now.

 

The COVID pandemic and Black Lives Matter have both had an undeniable, far reaching presence across the globe. I chose this book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot, because it features a woman of color, some interesting science that has impacted all of us, and research that could possibly play a role in coming up with a viable vaccine for COVID. An added bonus in selecting this book is that, as of the date of this article’s creation, it is banned book week in the United States, and this book has been banned (or at least challenged for banning) in Tennessee. The mother who pushed to have the book banned challenged it because she felt it was too indelicate about female bodies and sexual issues. However, the author’s response to the challenge was “A parent . . . has confused gynecology with pornography and is trying to get my book banned . . .” After having read this book, I agree with the author and did not find the book to be inappropriate or sexual, but there is a whole lot of science going on.

 

What is it about?
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is based on a real woman named Henrietta Lacks, who passed away from cervical cancer in 1951 at the age of 31. She was a Black woman who spent her short life working to take care of her large extended family, and then of her own five children. She was known for her kind and generous nature, her beauty and love of life, and her welcoming home. Her story is told over the course of decades, with the time period and focus changing with each chapter. Some chapters focus on Henrietta herself, some focus on her daughter Deborah and other family members, and some focus on the science and history of her cells and cellular research.

 

Henrietta Lacks discovered a tumor on her cervix, and sought treatment at Johns Hopkins hospital. As part of her exam, a doctor removed a sample of the tumor and passed it along to a coworker who was doing a cell study. Unlike all prior attempts at culturing cells with other unaware patients’ sample tissues, Henrietta’s cancer cells did not die. They in fact robustly lived on, and multiplied rapidly. The research scientist named the cell line “HeLa,” and passed samples of the new cells to a friend, who passed them to another friend, and so on until one day someone decided to monetize the cell acquisition system. The HeLa cell line is so productive and useful it is now found in virtually all labs that do any kind of cell studies.

 

Cells from Ms. Lacks have been used to come up with numerous medications, vaccines, and information in all areas of science. They have also caused millions of dollars of damage to other trials and experiments because the cells are from a cancer so productive and invasive that they regularly and easily contaminate other projects.

 

The thing is, despite their value scientifically and monetarily, no one ever asked Ms. Lacks for her permission to take her cells, and no one ever came to her family after she passed away to ask if they could continue to do research with her cells. This is where the sections with Deborah and the rest of the family come into play.

 

Deborah’s quest to find out more about her mother and sister dominate the family sections. Deborah is the fourth of Henrietta’s five children, and was only a toddler when her mother died. She was not even told she had an older sister, Elsie, the second of the five, until much later in her life. The family were poor, under educated, and undervalued, and chose not to seek out regular medical care because of the rumors of doctors experimenting on Black patients. Some would say they were taken advantage of, and that they should have been cut in on the profit that was eventually made from the HeLa cells. Others (including this author) argue that at the very least the family should have been made aware of the situation long before they were.

 

I found the sections with Deborah to be much more of an emotional read than I was expecting for this type of subject. It was very clear over the course of the years this book took to develop that Ms. Skloot came to care deeply for the Lacks family and felt a genuine burden to help them understand the situation and uncover as much information as she could. Because of her and Deborah’s perseverance we got to read about Deborah discovering the truth about her sister’s death. (It was not pretty.) We also got to experience Deborah getting to view some of her mother’s cell line for the first time. For a person who spent so much time in fear and frustration over what happened with her mother, Deborah is an extremely positive and forgiving person. Deborah wanted the world to know that “HeLa” was a real woman, named Henrietta Lacks, not Helen Lane, and now we know.

 

My personal take:

 

It is always a good thing when a book teaches you something. In this case, it taught me more about science, racial inequality, and the ethics (really, lack thereof!) of the medical field at the time this ground breaking research was taking place. The study of cells and tissues is wide and deep, legally speaking. I was surprised to learn that at the time of the book’s publishing in 2010, and despite the field having developed patient privacy and consent laws, the patient whose body the scrapings came from does not own, nor can they patent anything that is developed from their body. Makes me wonder what my tonsils have been up to since I forcibly evicted from my body so many years ago.

 

I admire the author’s dedication to the story. She spent over a decade working on interviews, at her own personal cost, helping Deborah to find the answers she desperately wanted about her mother and sister. Some of the experiences that did make it into the book seem like they would have been pretty intense, and if it was me, I probably would have “noped” out of there on more than one occasion.

 

I am thankful for all that has come from cellular research. I am thankful to know now who Henrietta Lacks was, and is, and how very important she is to all of us. I hope you take the opportunity to learn more about her as well.

 

Similar reading/books like it that I have read and recommend:

 

1. The 1978 article by Michael Rogers that first broke the news about Ms. Lacks’ race, and the contamination issues that resulted.

 

How about you, my friends? What are you reading? Do you have book recommendations for me that you’d like to see reviewed in the TVT? I’d love to hear from you! Please drop me a PM, all genres welcome!
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