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Books, Journals, New Media
January 26, 2000

Breast CancerLiving on the Margins: Women Writers on Breast Cancer

Author Affiliations

Harriet S.MeyerMD, Contributing EditorJonathan D.EldredgeMLS, PhD, Journal Review EditorRobertHoganMD, adviser for new media


Not Available

JAMA. 2000;283(4):539-540. doi:10.1001/jama.283.4.539-JBK0126-4-1

Living on the Margins is a literary anthology of breast cancer with a distinguished list of eight contributors, all writers—poets, critics, academics, editors, essayists. Their writing, wide-ranging in genre, style, and tone, includes personal narratives, poetry, academic essays, and an interview.

The editor, Hilda Raz, begins the book with an argument that a "margin of missing literature" surrounds breast cancer, and that "margins of silence" confine artists living with the disease. Throughout the introduction she further develops the "margins" imagery, sometimes too insistently: the contributors have all traveled beyond the "margins of the known world," often pushing the "margins of acceptable treatment," all of them looking for "clean margins" around a cancerous site in their breasts, all of them "living on the margins" because of what they've experienced. Raz is most persuasive when she writes of the healing potential of art. Her purpose for the collection, in fact, is "to discover ways writers accept the risk cancer brings and use it in their work." Artists repair, reorganize, and reconceptualize the familiar and the unknown, "seducing," as Linda McCarriston is quoted here, "the reluctant knower with the pleasure, the intellectual thrill, the ‘terrible beauty' of the unwanted lesson: into knowing."

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