Beauty and the Breast, by Merrill Joan Gerber
Beauty and the Breast: A Tale of Breast Cancer, Love, and Friendship (192 pages) is a literary memoir by award-winning author Merrill Joan Gerber. With wit and wisdom, Gerber reflects on her breasts, her life, and her Jewish heritage as she undergoes treatment for breast cancer.
“I LOVE IT!! I could not put it down. Merrill Joan Gerber tells the story without a drop of feeling sorry for herself. She never loses her sense of humor. I’ve read a lot of breast cancer books, but hers is so fresh, so endearing, there’s nothing else like it.”
—Judy Blume, author of Are you There, God? It’s Me, Margaret, and In the Unlikely Event
“An intimate, touching, moving portrait of the self in peril and in pain, written with characteristic intelligence & lucidity by Merrill Joan Gerber.”
—Joyce Carol Oates, National Book Award winner
“Short, easily digestible chapters. [Gerber] also includes clear, black-and-white close-ups of her affected breast during various stages of treatment, among other images…. The featured photographs of the author make this one stand out among the pack.” Read more….
When award-winning author Merrill Joan Gerber was diagnosed with breast cancer, she set out on a journey familiar to too many women. It began with denial that her precious breasts could become the agents of terror and even death. What followed was a parade of doctors and their treatments, of surgery, the debilitating side effects of chemotherapy, and the dangerous but life-saving beams of radiation to her breast. Along the way, Merrill found a new appreciation for the blessings in her life, her beloved husband, their daughters, and their daughters’ children. As she recalled her parents’ illnesses, her childhood in Brooklyn, and her complicated relationship with her own breasts, she reflected on long-held notions of fear and death.
In Beauty and the Breast, Merrill bares her soul and her breasts as she navigates the terrors of cancer and treatment and learns with courage and gratitude what it means to be a survivor. Many have reported on the cancer wars, but Merrill’s memoir delivers a special contribution of humor, passion, candor, real-life photos, and a poetic gift to the reader.
“I read Beauty and the Breast nonstop: the pages turn themselves. Horror, humor, humaneness, fear, fatigue, love, honesty, bravery, and so much more, including even charm—all movingly mingled. The book (science and sensibility) is the triumph of an ordeal overcome and transcended.”
—Cynthia Ozick, author of Critics, Monsters, Fanatics, and other Literary Essays
“As much rumination on the mortal predicament as it is testament to the continuous discovery that is life, Merrill Joan Gerber’s memoir of her negotiations with cancer makes for richly provocative reading. And in the hands of a gifted and insightful writer with a penchant for the humorously quotidian, those negotiations are at once profound and entirely accessible. Cancer demands courage. Writing about it may require something like meta-courage.”
—Lynn Stegner, author of For All the Obvious Reasons
“Merrill Joan Gerber is one of the finest writers of our time. There is no way to stop reading this very moving, compelling, sad but affirmative memoir. Whatever she touches, she illuminates.”
—David Evanier, author of Woody: The Biography
“Beauty and the Breast could be one of those books like Dr. Spock’s Baby and Child Care that just doesn’t quit selling because there is always another group that needs to know. The voice throughout the narrative is so superb. In some ways, the book feels more like a novel than a memoir. The pictures are extremely, extremely important. The interesting thing is that, at the end, the book becomes less about breast cancer and escaping death as it is about mortality and the seasons of life.”
—Dr. Dean Paschal, Emergency Room physician, New Orleans
“While reading Beauty and the Breast, I am close to tears all the time. Merrill’s incredible clarity and honesty is profound and necessary. The details, the photographs, the emotions make me feel as if it’s me going through this. It’s a real page-turner.”
—Mary Trunk, documentary film maker (Merrill Joan Gerber is one of four women artists in her film, Lost in Living)
“Beauty and the Breast will pour into a reader just as it poured from the author into her keyboard. It is hard to break away. Her voice is so powerful and intimate … she has borne witness in a voice that is unique and yet will reach everyone who reads it just where they are in their own lives. A beautiful and irresistible book.”
—Charlotte Zoe Walker, author of Condor and Hummingbird and winner of an O. Henry Award
“With fluid writing and pitch-perfect timing, Merrill Joan Gerber has written a remarkable story of a woman’s breast cancer journey. The photos and paintings rendered by the author of her treatments, her doctors, her husband and children add a wonderful visual layer to the tale. The author draws a heartwarming picture of family and friends who stay at her side and from whom she draws comfort, hope and delight. Gerber shares humorous takes on much that goes awry and offers many moments of wonder, joy and gratitude as well.”
—Nancy Levinson, author of Moments of Dawn, an Alzheimer’s Memoir and a two-time breast cancer survivor
“Beauty and the Breast has such a wonderful combination of humor, love of life, and sheer terror. It’s about breast cancer, but so much more. And it is about a long and happy marriage and the cancer that doesn’t interrupt it. Bravo!”
—Dr. Madeleine Moskowitz, Doctor of Psychology and breast cancer survivor.
Says the author, “During my cancer treatment, my husband took me to see a concert of the six Brandenburg Concertos by Bach. As I sat in the darkened church listening to this most transcendent music, as I watched the musicians on stage, particularly the women playing violins, a thought came to me: ‘Breasts are everywhere in Brooklyn.’ I quickly began to make notes on the sides and top of my program, suddenly realizing the enormity of the story that perhaps I was now destined to share. Though I was a writer, I never intended to recount the ordeals of my breast cancer journey. Now, in this illuminated moment, I saw there was a greater story to tell. Perhaps it was the thrilling music of Bach that loosed a flood of words and images in me. Beauty and the Breast was the result.”
Read an interview with the author on the Psychology Today blog.
MERRILL JOAN GERBER has published ten novels—among them King of The World, which won the Pushcart Press Editors’ Book Award and The Kingdom of Brooklyn, winner of the Ribalow Award from Hadassah Magazine—as well as seven volumes of short stories, nine young-adult novels, and three books of non-fiction. She has also published stories and essays in numerous magazines, including the New Yorker and Redbook, as well as literary journals. Her story, “I Don’t Believe This,” won an O. Henry Prize. She earned her MA in English from Brandeis University and was awarded a Wallace Stegner Fiction Fellowship to Stanford University. She presently teaches fiction writing at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, California. For more information, click here.
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