Stories of Illness and Healing: Women Write Their Bodies edited by Sayantani DasGupta and Marsha Hurst is an anthology of stories, essays, and poems all exploring the ways we approach illness and use language to define the healing process, even when the “healing” ends in death.
The spectrum of illness and disease is as varied as are the voices of these collected stories. From acute to chronic conditions, terminal and curable, physical, psychological, and beyond, the stories these women share are often touching and provocative, meant to inspire and draw attention to the unique condition of being a woman in a typically male dominated medical industry. Not all of the stories are from patients and the editors make a brilliant decision to include stories by healthcare professionals, including on lone male voice whose own essay addresses the conflict women feel in turning over the ownership of the body to the care of another. The confusion and frustrations of the caretaker are also addressed in the pages of the book.
No woman reading this book could possibly close it without seeing a variation of her own story somewhere within. Whether it is the voice of a woman doctor who stands in judgment over her lower-income patient or the woman facing a surgery in another country or even the young woman running naked through her neighborhood during a manic episode, if we cannot identify with the details we are bound to recognize ourselves in the vulnerability of the voices.
I can’t think of anyone to whom I would not recommend this book. Men should read it to better appreciate the socio-economic and gender driven dynamic of how women are treated within the medical community. Women should read it to better appreciate that these feelings of vulnerability are not uncommon–and perhaps draw upon this sense of being vulnerable to find strength to be stronger.
Each piece stands powerfully on its own while complimenting the others. This anthology is so tightly pulled together, with no single piece standing out as weaker or remarkably stronger than the other. What DasGupta and Hurst have managed to do is nothing less than brilliant and this is a book I am going to eagerly share and recommend to everyone I know and love. And even those I don’t know and don’t love. It’s just that good!