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The Cancer Journals

4.22  ·  Rating Details ·  1,090 Ratings  ·  74 Reviews
Moving between journal entry, memoir, and exposition, Audre Lorde fuses the personal and political as she reflects on her experience coping with breast cancer and a radical mastectomy. Includes photos and tributes to Lorde written after her death in 1992.

"Grief, terror, courage, the passion for survival and for more than survival, are here in the searchings of a great poet
Paperback, Special Edition, 104 pages
Published September 1st 2006 by Aunt Lute Books (first published 1980)
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Oct 22, 2008 Barbara rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I just finished reading this book yesterday evening, though I don’t know how interested I am in reading the tributes to Audre Lorde which follow the main text. This is a hard text, and the reason why I say this is because it truly is an unswerving example of practicing what you preach, what you say you believe in, and challenging others on their uncritical assumptions and givens.

Again, I am so interested in the various permutations of enforced silences, how clearly she articulates these silences
Oct 28, 2008 Erica rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was interviewing for a summer day camp counselor job in college and just finished reading this book. The interview for the job was terrible; three typical, bubbly camp counselor types asking the worst questions. For example: "What Disney character would you be and why?"

The last (also terrible, but predictable) question they asked: "If you could have dinner with one person, alive or dead, who would it be?" I finally decided on Audre Lorde whose Cancer Journals I had just read in a class.

I lov
Mar 08, 2017 Sunny rated it really liked it
I thought this was quite a moving account of Audre’s initial brush with breast cancer. Audre was a black lesbian poet from America who was diagnosed with a malignant form of breast cancer in around 1978 which was the year I was born. The book is about her emotional response to such a, then and now, life changing event. When she knew she had it, it gave her a rage to live. Something I’ve always had also because of my own father’s death when I was 15 from cancer. I appreciate how short our span is ...more
Dec 27, 2008 Lightreads rated it it was ok
Post-mastectomy reflections and journal entries from the former Poet Laureate. This is gorgeous, unsurprisingly. It's raw and pained and unapologetic about
both. But it also bothered me on a fundamental level, which I finally identified as the same place that will never be able to align itself with traditional feminism. Lorde's story is partly about a woman who refused to settle for prosthesis after her breast was removed, who believes that women don't need to have two breasts to be beautiful, th
Nov 16, 2008 Syd rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: journal-diary
I remember hearing of Audre's death sixteen years ago. I sank to the floor and sobbed, the only time I have ever reacted that way to the death of someone I had never met. This was written fourteen years prior to her death, when she was first diagnosed with breast cancer and had a mastectomy. As always, I am awed by her strength and the strength she gained from other women. If you have someone in your life facing breast cancer, buy them this book. Audre came to a powerful conclusion when she wrot ...more
Nicholas I. Wiggins
Feb 21, 2007 Nicholas I. Wiggins rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: everyone
Shelves: fav-from-school
i read this in a Af-Am lit course in college and was floored. I wasn't expecting to be moved by it but was tremendously moved by her journey through cancer and a mastectomy. I believe I even had a better understanding of women after reading this book.
Jun 14, 2010 Keigh-Cee rated it it was amazing
This book literally changed my life. I know that sounds a little cliche, but it was incredible to know the thoughts and feelings of one of the most influential queer writers of my time. I wish I was alive for more of her life. I wish I could have mourned her.
This book also changed my ideas on breast cancer. Since 50% of women get breast cancer, there is a good chance that my wife or I will get it. Reading this book makes me fear this disease less, and know that even if the worst happens, I, too,
Jul 01, 2009 Carolyn rated it really liked it
I wrote this reflection before my grandmother died in 2006.

Beyond its status as a personal account of coming to terms with an illness, Lorde’s Cancer Journals struck me as serving a practical purpose for me, as a woman with breast cancer in my family. It’s certainly relevant to me right now for the ways in which she discusses the invisibility of breast cancer, the ways in which women are encouraged to hide both the illness and outcome of mastectomy. My grandmother was diagnosed with breast cance
Ralowe Ampu
May 14, 2013 Ralowe Ampu rated it it was amazing
it is disabling to even approach the structure/agency dilemma. this insovereign whirl is (near as i can tell, anyway) the field of ability; norms, categories, scenes, power relations. it's a spinning maelstrom that feels unnavigable, ungovernable. what happens to care, let alone social justice, in all this mess? i enjoyed the last essay the best. reading audre lorde reminds me of a moral ideal for how to be queer while providing care while confused and immobilized above the maddening circumabula ...more
Oct 28, 2012 Terry rated it it was amazing
I was introduced to the work of Audre Lorde by a professor friend at Pitt who teaches several courses on her work. I studied it as rhetoric, however to read her writing for any purpose is an indescribable experience. Brilliance.

I revisited her work and this particular book when I was also diagnosed with breast cancer and was forced to face the painful decisions this diagnosis brings with it. How does one view a mastectomy? Would it be a life-saving experience or a rape of my body image? And why
Nov 03, 2014 Amy rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I just finished this book for the freshman seminar course as a teaching assistant. I thought the first half of this book was a bit slow with her journal entries, but I absolutely loved the second part. I love reading such a powerful book from a feminist perspective. It was great!

One of my favorite passages is on the bottom of page 21. I won't type the entire paragraph out, but the message is powerful. The last line ends with "And all the other endless ways in which we rob ourselves of ourselves
Update: Currently re-reading this because I needed a little more undauntable audre in my life right now. So. much. love.

I have the original version of this book, not the new edition with the tributes, so I'm writing this here so that I have it later:

"I grew up by the Mississippi River. Hell, for most of my life I've lived within 70 miles of that river. Not next to her, mind you -- I've never lived in a river town. But by her. Not close enough to know her intimately: her daily changes, her season
Mar 03, 2016 Chase rated it really liked it
Lorde's Cancer Journals are at once profound, powerful, and wrought with despair. It's clear that Lorde was moved to anger by the medical industry, in its concentration on cures and cosmetics. This short collection of essays and journal reflections points to the heart of cancer anxieties, particularly from a resonant Black Lesbian Warrior, whose work has inspired generations of activists to undergo a critical change in biomedicine. Though less image-resilient than Zami, The Cancer Journals are a ...more
Blair Ngundze
Jun 05, 2013 Blair Ngundze rated it it was amazing
I read this book during a friends battle with cancer, he would read passages to me and say that Lorde would tell me everything he couldn't find the vocabulary to articulate. This book is an honest account by one of my hero's about her battle with breast cancer and it features passages from her own journal. I loved it and this book was my introduction to the ineffable Mama Audre Lorde (she really is like my mother so, allow). This book will grow you and teach you and hold you and when you get to ...more
Dec 14, 2012 Allison rated it liked it
"And, of course, I am afraid - you can hear it in my voice - because the transformation of silence into language and action is an act of self-revelation and that always seems fraught with danger. But my daughter said, 'Tell them about how you're never really a whole person if you remain silent, because there's always that one little piece inside of you that wants to be spoken out, and if you keep ignoring it, it gets madder and madder and hotter and hotter and if you don't speak it out one day i ...more
Josephine Ensign
Apr 17, 2015 Josephine Ensign rated it really liked it
A refreshingly direct and honest (and sadly, still current) look at an 'outsider woman's' journey through breast cancer diagnosis and treatment. Lorde's account of her encounter with an oncology nurse's---shall we say error of judgement? lack of tact?-- admonishment that Lorde's refusal to wear a breast prosthesis was 'bad for the office morale'--is a good reminder of how we as nurses are too often agents of social/medical control.
Sarah Evan
I am using this as a piece for my master's paper because lorde's voice is actually one of few who in detail speaks of her exeprience not only with cancer, but the medical establishment, her breasts, her love of and community of women, and her mood. a 76 page fountain of deep exploration into these important topics for a patient's life that I am using as an illness narrative and applying it to narrative therapy for problems related to health issues.
Eric Susak
Mar 19, 2014 Eric Susak rated it it was amazing
Although Lorde speaks specifically in terms of a women's experiences with cancer (and fighting against societal perceptions of women), I found that this book can provide supportive and empowering insight for anyone dealing with disease and physical malady. Lorde entwines her intelligent critique of the American medical establishment with beautiful prose about strength and self-realization.
Jul 02, 2014 saferia rated it it was amazing
Raw, truthful, and eloquently written. Her words speak of things taboo in society, the world of breast cancer/mastectomies, and perceptions of women/femininity.
Naomi Foyle
Jan 02, 2017 Naomi Foyle rated it it was amazing
I read this book as I underwent chemotherapy for breast cancer myself, and found it an invigorating, bracing and sobering experience. Lorde, like my late mother (who died of colon cancer in 1992) had a mastectomy but refused chemotherapy; I respect everyone's right to choose their own treatment, but as someone who was helped far more than harmed by chemo I can't help but wonder if, even though far more arduous in the nineties, it might have helped them both survive. But cancer is a personal jour ...more
بثينة الإبراهيم
تتحدث أودري عن تجربتها بعد إصابتها بسرطان الثدي وخضوعها لجراحة استئصال، وتحاول النظر إلى الموضوع بمنظار مختلف إذ تعتبره منطلق قوة وتسمي نفسها محاربة. ترفض الخضوع لجراحة تعويضية وتبدي استغرابها من انتقاد الممرضات لرفضها قائلات إنها عملية ضرورية كيلا يلحظ أحد الفرق!
هل ستشعر المرأة بالشعور نفسه لو بتر لها عضو آخر كالساق أو الذراع؟ لا شك أن الأمر يتعلق بالمظهر وهذا ما جعل أصحاب شركات يستغنون عن خدمات موظفات خضعن للعملية ذاتها.
من الواضح أن أودري لا تعاني هذه المعضلة فقط، إذ تضطر للدفاع عن نفسها -إن
Kristen Davis
Jan 10, 2017 Kristen Davis rated it it was amazing
I read this book back in the 90's and wanted to revisit it again. I am reminded by how much I appreciate Audre's voice and her vision and the importance of expressing physical, emotional and psychic pain.

One of my favorite quotes:
"I have come to believe over and over again that what is most important to me must be spoken, made
verbal and shared even at the risk of having it bruised or misunderstood. That speaking it profits me, beyond any other effect."
Johanna Pas
Jan 19, 2017 Johanna Pas rated it it was amazing
Meer dan 35 jaar geleden geschreven en helaas nog steeds erg relevant.
Steph Mecham
Oct 10, 2016 Steph Mecham rated it really liked it
This book struck me over and over again. Her experiences with fear, grief, loss, pain, silence...and redemption, strength, fighting, and empowerment were utterly moving. I saw my mother in this book, I saw myself in this book, I saw my Sisters and fellow Women in this book.
Katherine León
Sep 03, 2015 Katherine León rated it it was amazing
"Después de todo, ¿De qué podríamos tener miedo después de haber admitido ante nosotras mismas que hemos enfrentado la muerte y no nos hemos entregado? Porque, una vez que aceptamos la existencia real de nuestra muerte, ¿Quién puede ya tener poder sobre nosotras?"

Este es un libro corto, muy rápido y fácil de leer, pero que esconde en sus pocas páginas una gran historia que vale la pena leer algún día. Audre Lorde decide expresa lo que vivió y experimento cuando fue diagnosticada de cáncer de mam
Denise Florendo
Dec 19, 2016 Denise Florendo rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016
"I don't feel like being strong, but do i have a choice?"

I've had very few brief and fleeting encounters with breast cancer. Stories shared by relatives, friends, friends of friends, acquaintances, strangers, the media, other people and other mediums. Those stories come in different varieties, laced with tears and joy, success and failure.

One that i remembered was the post mastectomy of my first grade tutor. She let me see her amputated breast. I don't exactly remember what it looked like, i ju
Re-reading The Cancer Journals in the last few days, after many years, there's this: "Off and on, I kept thinking. I have cancer. I'm a black lesbian feminist poet, how am I going to do this now? Where are the models for what I'm supposed to be in this situation? But there were none. This is it, Audre. You're on your own."

And this: "Any short-circuiting of this quest for self-definition and power, however well-meaning and under whatever guise, must be seen as damaging, for it keeps the post-mas
U. Teresa
Sep 03, 2013 U. Teresa rated it it was amazing
A poignant, unflinching, and inspiring account of her experience with breast cancer and a mastectomy, Audre Lorde again empowers the reader through her courage and grace on the pages of her journal. As she explains in the following passage," I have come to believe over and over again that what is most important to me must be spoken, made verbal and share, even at the risk of having it bruised or misunderstood," Lorde makes the reader bear witness to her battle with breast cancer. More importantl ...more
Kate M
Mar 21, 2011 Kate M rated it liked it
I cannot imagine going through breast cancer when Audre Lorde did; I thank her for being one of the women who made it okay for me to talk openly about my experiences and serving as an example of the courage it takes to get through this ordeal while being true to yourself.

I know that Ms. Lorde is coming from a very different perspective than am I, but I take issue with several things she says. I understand her criticisms of breast reconstruction, especially in light of her own experiences (which
Jan 30, 2015 Craig rated it really liked it
Shelves: lgbtqia
'In the recognition of the existence of love lies the answer to despair.'

This one is very emotionally difficult, but worth it. Major insight into medical rhetoric (eg: women needing a prosthesis to maintain relationships with men) and the need for shared dialogues with other black lesbian feminists who had undergone mastectomies rather than stories from dominant narratives. The third section about prosthetics had me smiling with glee as Lorde gutted the cancer & plastic surgery industries fo
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Lorde's poetry was published very regularly during the 1960s — in Langston Hughes' 1962 New Negro Poets, USA; in several foreign anthologies; and in black literary magazines. During this time, she was politically active in civil rights, anti-war, and feminist movements. Her first volume of poetry, The First Cities (1968), was published by the Poet's Press and edited by Diane di Prima, a former cla ...more
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“My silences had not protected me. Your silence will not protect you. But for every real word spoken, for every attempt I had ever made to speak those truths for which I am still seeking, I had made contact with other women while we examined the words to fit a world in which we all believed, bridging our differences.” 143 likes
“What is there possibly left for us to be afraid of, after we have dealt face to face with death and not embraced it? Once I accept the existence of dying as a life process, who can ever have power over me again?” 40 likes
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