Literature Annotations


Lorde, Audre
The Cancer Journals


Genre Journal (77 pp.)
KeywordsAcculturation, African-American Experience, Cancer, Disease and Health, Illness Narrative/Pathography, Medical Ethics, Patient Experience, Power Relations, Suffering, Women's Health
Summary

Through a compilation of journal entries, prose, and poetry, poet and activist Audre Lorde considers her breast cancer and mastectomy. Lorde emphasizes the importance of having a support network of other women. As a lesbian and feminist, she also offers a different perspective on this surgery. Her concern is not attracting or pleasing men despite the loss of a breast.

In one chapter, "Breast Cancer: Power vs. Prosthesis," Lorde considers the political implications of prosthetic breasts, arguing that hiding women’s pain and suffering disguises the widespread nature of the disease and places too much emphasis on "normal" femininity. She also writes about plastic surgeons who perform dangerous reconstructive surgery in the name of "quality of life."

Commentary

Lorde’s journals are distinct from others of their kind. She writes passionately and well. Moreover, her writing combines personal pain with political decisions, complicating the issue. She encourages women who have undergone mastectomy to see themselves as warriors and to bear their scars proudly.

A highly relevant Web site by artist-model Matuschka, http://www.songster.net/projects/matuschka/, has been annotated in the art section of this database ( Matuschka Archive ). See also Matuschka’s essay, Barbie Gets Breast Cancer.

PublisherSpinsters
Edition1980
Place PublishedArgyle, N.Y.
Annotated by Moore, Pamela
Date of Entry 05/20/94
Last Revised 11/18/01