When faced with breast cancer and chemotherapy, Catherine Lord chronicles her illness in a literary performance piece by adopting the online persona of Her Baldness--a testy, witty, passionate presence who speaks forthrightly about her fears to a highly selective listserv audience of friends, family, and colleagues. The fragmented, multifaceted format of this autobiographical text includes photos, lists, e-mail narrations of her illness, responses from friends, plus the quick-tempered, no-holds-barred ruminations of Her Baldness on what cancer, chemotherapy, and baldness have meant in her life.


While Lord's account of breast cancer shares many of the same political orientations of her similarly named kin (i.e. Audre Lorde), The Summer of Her Baldness is a far more textually creative account of living through breast cancer and chemotherapy. While Catherine Lord does not have a mastectomy--no small difference between her and Audre Lorde--she does choose chemotherapy, which forces her to move around the world as a bald woman marked by illness.

What it is like to inhabit the body of a woman without hair takes up significant space in the e-mail missives of Her Baldness, who refuses to wear a wig, finding it a "substitute, a fling, a replacement, a temporary solution that would imply a temporary problem" (43). In addition to her insights surrounding her multiple identities, particularly those before she got breast cancer and the bald, bolder, uncensored selves that emerged after her diagnosis, Lord's most remarkable writing surrounds losing her hair.

Her Baldness theorizes hair, the loss of hair, the aesthetics and politics of hats, the pate and variations on pate ("pateness," getting "pated," "pate viewing"), and being mistaken for a man. During her illness Her Baldness used her listserv to share with friends, and now, in The Summer of Her Baldness, with readers, what it's like to be ill, full of contradictions, fear, shame, anger, and some craziness as well, all changing from moment to moment.


Univ. of Texas Press

Place Published

Austin, Tex.



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