PositiveNew York TimesThe British scholar Elinor Cleghorn makes the insidious impact of gender bias on women’s health starkly and appallingly explicit: \'Medicine has insisted on pathologizing ‘femaleness,’ and by extension womanhood.\' ... Cleghorn is unsparing in her examples of women suffering unimaginable and unnecessary horror at the hands of doctors who were unwilling either to listen closely or to admit when they were stumped ... It’s impossible to read Unwell Women without grief, frustration and a growing sense of righteous anger. Cleghorn’s prose is lively, and she has marshaled an enormous amount of material. But her decision to organize it chronologically rather than thematically can slow her momentum, forcing her to circle back to certain topics repeatedly.
Janice P. Nimura
PositiveDiscoverThe Blackwell sisters, who in 1857 opened the first women-run hospital in New York City, set forth a precedent for health care that would transform a traditionally male-focused practice. Nimura shocks and enthralls with her blunt, vivid storytelling. She draws on the writings of Elizabeth and Emily in an intimate way that makes it feel like she knew the sisters personally. Alongside glaring descriptions of culturally ingrained sexism and discrimination, the biography also touches on how our standards of medicine have changed over the decades, showing how even the most scientific of professions are subject to major culture shifts.
Christine Wunnike, Trans. by Philip Boehm
RaveThe New York Times Book ReviewThere is little that is fixed in Christine Wunnicke’s glittering, absurdist jewel of a novel ... Wunnicke paints nightmarishly hectic European scenes in a palette of absinthe and Toulouse-Lautrec, and alternates them with nightmarishly static scenes of Shimamura’s declining, colorless present in Japan. Connections proliferate like reflections in a house of mirrors, fascinating and also vaguely queasy — the narrative is disorienting in every sense of the word. But absurdist fiction, like psychotherapy, requires an investment of energy and a suspension of judgment. The Fox and Dr. Shimamura is worth the effort.
PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewMy Year of Dirt and Water is an intriguing addition to this shelf, not just because its author is a woman. Like many gaijin memoirists, Tracy Franz writes of her determined but stumbling pursuit of traditional Japanese disciplines, in her case, pottery and Soto Zen Buddhism. But the primary reason for her extended sojourn in Japan is her tall American husband, formerly Garrett, now Koun, recently ordained as a Zen priest and now spending a year as a cloistered monk in a Kyushu temple. His motivation — a deep commitment to Buddhist service — is clear, or at least as clear as Zen paradox allows. Hers is harder to define ... a love story, a recovery narrative, a knowingly futile attempt to penetrate \'a nation that takes great pride in its impenetrability\' — is the same kind of thing. It demands attention, and defies understanding.
Kenzaburo Oe, Trans. by Deborah Boehm
PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewTrue Oe devotees may find this thrill in Death by Water, but thrilling or not, it remains a thoughtful reprise of a lifetime of literary endeavor. It’s like the story of the emperor’s new clothes, only with the man in question gazing calmly at his audience and declaring yes, it’s true, he’s completely naked and he wouldn’t have it any other way. You have to admire his serene and total conviction, even if you flinch from the view.