Thursday, March 4, 2021

Between Two Kingdoms

A Memoir of Interrupted Life
by Suleika Jaouad

In the summer after graduating from college, Suleika Jaouad was preparing to enter "the real world". She had fallen in love and moved to Paris to pursue her dream of becoming a war correspondent. The real world she found, however, would take her into a very different kind of conflict zone.


It started with an itch - first on her feet, then up her legs, like 1,000 invisible mosquito bites. Next came the exhaustion, and the six-hour naps that only deepened her fatigue. Then a trip to the doctor and, a few weeks shy of her 23rd birthday, a diagnosis: acute myelogenous leukemia, with a 35 percent chance of survival. Just like that, the life she had imagined for herself had gone up in flames. By the time Jaouad flew home to New York, she had lost her job, her apartment, and her independence. She would spend much of the next three years in a hospital bed, fighting for her life and chronicling the saga in a column for The New York Times.


This is an extraordinary book.  You should need no more inducements to read it. (I listened to the book on  It is read by the author who does an amazing job!).

Also, see the TED Talk...

Saturday, February 13, 2021


 by Roxanne Gay

The memoir deals with her gang rape as a preteen, overeating, and the author's struggles with her public and private identities.

Gay's work has been greatly influenced by a sexual assault she experienced at the age of 12 at the hands of her boyfriend and his friends.  This led to obsessive overeating which served as a way to keep men at a distance.

See: Roxanne Gay.  Since the publication of Hunger, Gay has become an important public intellectual who publishes regularly in the NY Times.

Thursday, September 3, 2020

About This Blog

Pathographies are illness narratives and have become increasingly popular over the past few decades.  This blog contains references to illness narratives that I have found helpful.  The genre is interesting and important.   

There are three main types of pathography (and they may overlap):  Quest, Chaos and Restitution stories.  Pathographies are an essential adjunct to learning about the illness experience.

·      Quest: a person journeys through and faces suffering head on in the belief that something is to be gained from the illness experience.

·      Chaos: The rarest type and often the most important.  When people are overwhelmed by the intensity of their illness, to speak coherently becomes impossible. The underlying message is that life does not get better. All this provokes anxiety as the mask slips off to reveal human frailty and vulnerability. No Hollywood endings here.  

·      Restitution: In the West, we are mainly preoccupied with the restitution narrative, which goes: "Yesterday I was healthy, today I am sick but tomorrow I will be healthy again." There is a belief in restorable health.  Planet Hollywood rules.

Arthur Frank wrote a book about pathographies called "The Wounded Storyteller" (1995).  Notes on this can be found at Google-Docs. It's more than most people will want to read, but if you do, contact me if you need an invitation.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Breathing for a Living

by Laura Rothenberg  Wikipedia

Twenty-one-year-old Laura Rothenberg had always tried to live a normal life--even with lungs that betrayed her and a constant awareness that she might not live to see her next birthday. Like most people born with cystic fibrosis, the chronic disease that affects primarily the lungs, Laura struggled to come to grips with a life that had already been compromised in many ways. Sometimes healthy and able to attend school, other times hospitalized for weeks, Laura found solace in keeping a diary. In her writing, she could be open, honest, and irreverent, like the young person she was. Yet behind this voice is a penetrating maturity about her mortality, revealing a will and temperament that is fierce and insightful.

Also see: The Amazing Life of Laura by Andrew Solomon