This edited anthology, which includes poems, essays, short stories, and other creative forms (e.g., a radio diary, a letter to a social service agency), is organized into sections that include Body and Self, Diagnosis and Treatment, Womanhood, Family Life and Caregiving, Professional Life and Illness, and Advocacy. Most works found their way into this collection through a call for submissions, although a few selections are well known, such as Lynne Sharon Schwartz's "So You're Going to Have a New Body !," or an excerpt from Rachel Naomi Remen's Kitchen Table Wisdom (see annotations). In addition, the anthology also includes essays by scholars such as Arthur W. Frank and Rita Charon, who theorize gendered illness narratives.


This is a remarkable and useful anthology of stories of illness and healing. Going well beyond the usual focus on breast cancer, reproductive issues, and eating disorders, the book is a rich examination of a full array of health matters confronting women over their lifespans, including arthritis, incest, abortion, multiple sclerosis, food allergies, and manic depression; it even contains a wonderful meditation on the placenta. Also included are narratives of women who care for others, usually husbands, children, or aging parents.

While there are many memorable selections, some stand out, particularly Amy Haddad's poems "Stereotactic Biopsy" and "What if They Said," both from the section on Diagnosis and Treatment; Elissa Meites's "Choose," a revealing portrait of reproductive "choice" that illuminates the complex and ambivalent dimensions of the decision-making process; Kate Scannell's "Leave of Absence," which portrays the quiet shock of receiving a cancer diagnosis an hour and forty minutes before she is to leave for Paris and crosses the boundary of "before" and "after"; Kathy Boudin's narrative of AIDS activism when she was an inmate at a maximum security prison; all of Cortney Davis's work. A useful teaching tool, this volume is valuable for "scholars and students of narrative, illness, and women's experience, as well as men and women interested in, affected by, and working with illness."


Sayantani Das Gupta is a pediatrician on the faculty at Columbia's College of Physicians & Surgeons; Marsha Hurst was the Director of the Graduate Program in Health Advocacy at Sarah Lawrence from 1998 through 2007.


The Kent State University Press

Place Published

Kent, Ohio




Sayantani Das Gupta & Marsha Hurst

Page Count