By Alex Platt
Although chronic illnesses are common among Canadians, cutting across culture and ethnicity, sex and gender, you wouldn’t necessarily believe it by looking at our literature. This is one of the many costs of living with a chronic illness: invisibility. For many of us, shame—and a deep fear of judgment or reprisal (not just from friends and family, but from those working in the medical field)—help prop up a culture of silence around chronic illness and disease.
For September, the FOLD has selected titles that not only make space for stories that deepen and expand our empathy and understanding of what it means to live with a chronic illness, but also acknowledge the ways in which the personal and the social are interwoven (instead of framing illness or disease as a personal tragedy), and ask us to reflect with care and patience on lived experiences that exist outside of the realm of the mainstream–well, neurotypical, or able-bodied realm. Crucially, these writers show us that we can do more than survive.
This is the story of how the author survived three advanced cancers: Stage 4 non-Hodgkin lymphoma, Stage 3 multiple myeloma, and Stage 3 breast cancer, within a period of five years. Written as a series of anecdotes based on entries from a blog the author started shortly after her first diagnosis—when her focus was simply on surviving—it tells a story of resilience, courage, and hope in the face of overwhelming odds. It explores and shares the author’s experiences at home, in the community, and in hospitals, revealing with utter honesty and catching humour her moments of utter darkness and light, of intense pain and blissful but precarious relief.
Choosing Hope captures the psychological, physical, and emotional trauma of a cancer diagnosis and treatment. It is easy to read and anecdotal in style and will have special appeal to recently diagnosed cancer patients, survivors and their families, to caregivers, and to many others facing health challenges.
is Hollay Ghadery’s memoir of mixed-race identity and mental illness. Drawing on her own experiences as a woman of Iranian and British Isle descent, writer Hollay Ghadery dives into conflicts and uncertainty surrounding the bi-racial female body and identity, especially as it butts up against the disparate expectations of each culture. Painfully and at times, reluctantly, Fuse probes and explores the documented prevalence of mental health issues in bi-racial women.
In his first book, Shayne McGreal writes about mental illness, masculinity and violence, focusing on characters who are insecure, full of doubt, and desperate to control themselves and their surroundings.
Following a stranger hoping he’s a long-lost friend. Breaking into a relative’s home to retrieve your antidepressants. Planning to get pregnant, getting pregnant, and trying to tell your husband you don’t want the baby. Waiting all evening for your wife to compliment your appearance, running a social experiment and getting blamed when a woman gets hit by a car. Getting fired after you’re caught with your pants down at work. All these stories involve Anthony, a sensitive, insecure, mentally ill young man and aspiring filmmaker. The collection explores his experiences as he tries to cope with and overcome the fears driven by his obsessive compulsive disorder, anxiety disorder, and clinical depression.