The winners of the 12th annual “BC Reads” scholarship have been announced. This years featured book was “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.” The story of the tobacco farmer Henrietta Lacks and the line of “HeLa” cancer cells which were obtained from her without consent during treatment for deadly cervical cancer in February 1951. Lacks’ family had no notion that her cancerous cells were being used for research throughout the world until they were contacted by a writer from Rolling Stone in 1976. The book details the life of Mrs. Lacks and the response of her family to the commercialization of her tissue, while explaining the proliferation of HeLa and the breakthroughs in medical science the “immortal” cells have catalyzed.
Of the two $1,000 scholarships, one was split two way between collaborators Cynthia Batts and Amanjit Aujla, who created a “find it jar” containing various symbols they related to events in the book. The second $1,000 scholarship was awarded to Bonnie Laremore, a mother, cancer survivor and radiology student who empathized personally with Lacks’ struggle to maintain pleasant behavior outwardly while suffering through physically draining treatment and depression. Bonnie included research she conducted herself and summarized the data neatly in graphs throughout the essay. In her experience the medical atmosphere is often impersonal and lends itself to the dehumanization of patients. The questions she used to develop the graphs are included at the end of her essay.
The runners up won $25 gift cards to the BC bookstore. One was a personal essay by Irina Stroyna, relating the legacy of her grandfather Peter who worked in a German mill during WWII and narrowly survived a gastric ulcer. At the end of his contracted four years, he narrowly encountered his family at the train station he had just arrived at as they were about to leave the country and him behind. His “legacy” is his woodwork, which survives today as many church pews through Europe. The essay was submitted along with a cufflink the late Peter had crafted.
Aziza Saliev won a gift card as well, her mixed medium painting of Henrietta Lacks will likely be the first to catch the eyes of those who go to view the display in the library this week. Of the other two runners up, one was an infographic by Luke Poletaeva on a variety of topics pertaining to the book, with the largest bibliography of the bunch. The last, Hyesoo Suh, chose not to have their submission publicly displayed.
The “BC Reads” scholarship is held by the Library Media Center, the money for prizes comes directly out of the library’s budget. Submissions are accepted in a variety of mediums, from software to dance numbers to standard essays. The selection committee consists of an interdisciplinary group of BC professors. When judging submissions they give preference “to those projects that either connect with the local community or connect with the student’s own experiences.” Winning submissions are on display in the library. To participate in next years competition, contact the LMC.