Since I moved to the Northwest in 1984, Powell’s Bookstore on Burnside in Portland has been a favorite place where I could lose myself for hours. This Monday night life again became surreal, and I lived out a long held dream by attending a book reading there. The difference from other book readings was that this time my daughter Rebecca Skloot was the featured writer. After ten long years of work there she was—reading from her NYT bestselling nonfiction book, “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.”
A perfect audience packed the house and included seemingly random people from various times and places in our lives: Becka’s father and his wife, my husband Terry, numerous other relatives including our wonderful DIL Renee, good friends who’d been old neighbors, good friends who were current neighbors, friends of family, family of friends, knitting and spinning buddies, Metropolitan Learning Center teachers (who apparently had to see it to believe it–and who also were very proud), Becka’s high school friends, people I’d worked with in four different places between 1976 and 1997, a high school English class from Tillamook, OR, the local literary crowd and even an old friend (my children’s dear Aunt Jean) who adopted Becka’s first cat when she was in 4th grade (after it became apparent I was highly allergic to many cats, including Sophia, who lived to be 20). Becka so loved Sophia; to this day, I remain grateful that she chose me over the cat! You never know. I was in second row center at the Powell’s reading, trying to relax and focus on the reading by knitting special socks for Jane Pauley! And believe it or not, the reading was done against a backdrop of handmade quilts by artist Natalie Chanin (author of Alabama Studio Style), scheduled to be at Powell’s the following night. It was all perfect!
At the beginning of the reading, Becka’s very proud father, Floyd, read words he’d written to honor and introduce her. A Q & A session followed the reading and after that a book signing. Nicholette Hoyer, owner of Stitchcraft in Vancouver, was among those who waited in the long line.
Here is Becka after the book signing with my good friend and current neighbor Cathy and some of Portland’s famous Voodoo donuts. The mysterious donut appearance was a nice touch–especially since Cathy is a professional pastry chef herself!
Notably absent that evening was Grandpa Bob, my father James Robert Lee, to whose loving memory her book is dedicated. She says: he “treasured books more than anyone I’ve known.” I left feeling flooded with gratitude for everyone and everything in the universe who supported Becka during these past ten years. I am proud of how she acknowledged and thanked the large community of family and friends who were there for her. Grandpa Bob would have been very proud.
I attended another reading on Tuesday at the Oregon Health Sciences University. Again she read from the book, told the story of Henrietta Lacks and the immortal cells and then signed many books:
And to connect this all back to knitters, in addition to being a writer and teacher, Becka is a knitter and animal lover. A story on the AARP website details how she quickly she took to knitting a few years ago and how it helps center her during this stressful time. The Portland time is just a brief stopover on her months-long book tour. She’s on her way next to Seattle for several readings and then back for another brief visit this weekend before heading south to Eugene and eventually on to California and Arizona. When I asked if there was anything special she’d like to do in the time she and I have blocked out to be together between now and her heading south, you guessed it! She said, “let’s go to a yarn shop!!” Atta girl!! Keep things balanced! I ‘m doubly proud of her!