Reading and Writing Cancer

How Words Heal

Susan Gubar (Author, Indiana University)


An important addition to the literature of cancer by an award-winning scholar and memoirist.

Elaborating upon her “Living with Cancer” column in the New York Times, Susan Gubar helps patients, caregivers, and the specialists who seek to serve them. In a book both enlightening and practical, she describes how the activities of reading and writing can right some of cancer’s wrongs. To stimulate the writing process, she proposes specific exercises, prompts, and models. In discussions of the diary of Fanny Burney, the stories of Leo Tolstoy and Alice Munro, numerous memoirs, novels, paintings, photographs, and blogs, Gubar shows how readers can learn from art that deepens our comprehension of what it means to live or die with the disease.

From a writer whose own memoir, Memoir of a Debulked Woman: Enduring Ovarian Cancer, was described by the New York Times Book Review as “moving and instructive…and incredibly brave,” this volume opens a path to healing.

Book Details

  • Hardcover
  • May 2016
  • ISBN 978-0-393-24698-8
  • 5.8 × 8.6 in / 240 pages
  • Sales Territory: Worldwide including Canada, Singapore and Malaysia, but excluding the British Commonwealth.

Endorsements & Reviews

“In this ambitious and inspiring book, her discussion--happily, in nonacademic language--combines with up-to-date research confirming that writing heals both mind and body. It adds up to a convincing argument that words heal, and you--even if you haven't written a thing since high school--can tap into the power of words.” — Philadelphia Inquirer

“[Gubar] has spent much of the past decade writing about life with ovarian cancer, having composed a memoir about her experiences and maintained a New York Times blog on the topic. Her new volume capitalizes on that work, at once testifying to the power of writing about cancer and offering practical advice to those who would like to follow her lead.” — Slate

“The book I wish I’d had beside me as I embarked on my own journey through cancer diagnosis and treatment. For, more than any other book I’ve read, it helps us understand precisely what it is that writing can help us accomplish during the most difficult time of our lives, and…understand that we are not alone.” — Louise DeSalvo

“This is the book I wish I’d had when I had cancer. Susan Gubar’s clarity and compassion are a model for living with any illness that transforms a life.” — Arthur W. Frank, author of At the Will of the Body and The Wounded Storyteller

“Susan Gubar has given us a wonderful tour of cancer through the written word. There is something for everyone from the newly diagnosed wanting an outlet to understand their disease to the scholar looking for a summary of cancer writing, to the blogger! Should be required reading for all doctors and patients!” — Dr. Susan Love, M.D., author of Dr. Susan Love’s Breast Book

“Beyond surviving, the greatest challenge after a cancer diagnosis is learning how to live as fully as possible. Gubar’s book shows us how reading and writing about living with cancer can help.” — Wendy S. Harpham, MD, author of Happiness in a Storm: Facing Illness and Embracing Life as a Healthy Survivor

Also by Susan Gubar All

  1. Book CoverMemoir of a Debulked Woman: Enduring Ovarian Cancer


  2. Book CoverMotherSongs: Poems For, By, and About Mothers


  3. Book CoverMotherSongs: Poems for, by, and about Mothers


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