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Book and Media Reviews
December 26, 2007

Stories of Illness and Healing: Women Write Their Bodies

Author Affiliations

Book and Media Reviews Section Editor: John L. Zeller, MD, PhD, Contributing Editor.

JAMA. 2007;298(24):2914-2920. doi:10.1001/jama.298.24.2916

According to the editors, the purpose of Stories of Illness and Healing: Women Write Their Bodies is for readers “to examine the powerful variety of women's experiences regarding illness and healing . . . that go beyond the prescriptive medical categories of disease” (p xi). That goal is successfully met. This book is exceptional due to the wide net the editors cast to conceptualize women's experiences regarding illness and healing, a net that draws far beyond traditional conceptions of women's health that focus exclusively on reproductive issues, breast cancer, and eating disorders to also include arthritis, incest, anorexia, abortion, multiple sclerosis, food allergies, and manic depression. It even contains a wonderful meditation on the placenta. The collection includes narratives of women who care for others who are ill, most often their children, husbands, or parents. In addition, and unlike other edited collections that often contain only a single genre or focus specifically on a single disease, DasGupta and Hurst solicited essays from well-known scholars such as Arthur Frank and Rita Charon to theorize the significant relationship between narrative and illness in essays found alongside the other creative entries. Their superb essays add depth and usefulness to the volume.

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