SR! 2012 Season News

Saratoga Reads Launches Series with Provocative Film and Family Reading Give-Aways

Saratoga Reads will launch its new series of public programs with two events in January, one designed for adult readers and one for young readers and their families.

The events will kick off a series related to this year’s Saratoga Reads book of choice, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. The widely acclaimed nonfiction work tells the story of an African American woman who sought treatment for cervical cancer at Johns Hopkins Hospital in 1951. During treatment, and without her consent, samples of her cancer tissue were taken for medical and scientific experimentation. For 60 years, cells reproduced from those samples have been used worldwide in medical research, yet Henrietta Lacks has remained virtually unknown and many of her family members have lived in poverty.

For adult readers there will be a showing of the film Miss Evers’ Boys followed by a guided discussion on Sunday, Jan. 22, beginning at 1:30 p.m. at SUNY Empire State College, 113 West Avenue, Saratoga Springs. The event, co-sponsored by Empire State College, is free and open to the public.

The 1997 HBO film follows the story of the U.S. Government’s Tuskegee syphilis experiments as told through the eyes of Miss Evers, a nurse involved with the study. The infamous study, conducted from 1932 to 1972 by the U.S. Public Health Service, examined the progression of untreated syphilis in poor, rural African-America men who thought they were receiving free health care to combat their ailments. Even in the mid-1940s when penicillin became the drug of choice to treat syphilis, researchers did not offer it to the subjects. In July 1972, an Associated Press story about the Tuskegee study caused a public outcry, leading to an investigative panel, the termination of the program, and class action lawsuits.

Opening remarks and the discussion following the film will be facilitated by interdisciplinary faculty from the Center for Distance Learning at SUNY Empire State College. The panelists will include Oto Jones, academic coordinator for economics and management; Joanne Levine, academic coordinator for human services; Theresa Smith, assistant professor of nursing; and Kim Stote, academic coordinator for health services.

The events for January include a book give-away for young readers on Thursday, Jan. 19, at the Higher Grounds Caffe, Saratoga Springs Public Library. Saratoga Reads will offer 10 family book bags featuring two of the junior companion books selected to complement The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. The free books, for students ages 3-12, will be offered beginning at 10 a.m. on a first-come, first-served basis. The bags are meant to be passed along and shared with other families as part of a Book Crossing program that encourages the sharing of books and the recording of thoughts and reactions online.

This year’s junior companion books are Hidden Worlds: Looking Through a Scientist’s Microscope by Stephen Kramer, Greg’s Microscope by Millicent Selsam, and Phineas Gage, A Gruesome but True Story About Brain Science by John Fleischman.

“This programming provides a perfect starting point for exploring some of the themes of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, said Tabitha Orthwein, chair of the Saratoga Reads board. “Families with young children can talk about the power of microscopes and how they are important to scientists, while adults can contemplate the complexities of bioethics and how these issues affect us today.”