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In the Body of the World: A Memoir of Cancer and Connection Paperback – February 4, 2014

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Editorial Reviews

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*Starred Review* After traveling to 60 countries and talking to women who “had experienced violence and suffering,” internationally renowned writer and activist Ensler thought she had heard it all, but nothing prepared her for the brutality of the Congo. The prolonged war over copper, gold, and coltan—minerals used in computers and cell phones—has claimed eight million lives and led to the rape and torture of hundreds of thousands of women. Ensler’s philanthropic organization, V-Day, was beginning to build an urgently needed women’s center there when she was diagnosed with uterine cancer. In a series of medical nightmares, she sustains the same harrowing wounds as Congolese women who were gang-raped and is flooded by memories of her father’s sexual assaults. As Ensler charts her horrific struggle, she aligns her body with the earth, pairing cancer with the pillaging of the Congo and BP’s poisoning of the Gulf of Mexico. As explicit as her blood-and-pain chronicles are, this is a ravishing book of revelation and healing, lashing truths and deep emotion, courage and perseverance, compassion and generosity. Warm, funny, furious, and astute, as well as poetic, passionate, and heroic, Ensler harnesses all that she lost and learned to articulate a galvanizing vision of the essence of life: “The only salvation is kindness.” HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: A national tour and high-profile promotion campaign will launch this scorching and enlightening memoir by the best-selling author of The Vagina Monologues (1998). --Donna Seaman --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


“Unforgettable...A story of stark, inspiring, often confrontational honesty. Ensler's message is clear: We can face the worst life has in store for us and create, even in the face of terror, a life of meaning and joy.” ―The New York Times Book Review

“An intense, riveting memoir...not an easy book to read, but a necessary book to read for its fierce, passionate commitment to making the world a safe place for women.” ―The Boston Globe

“Without a sliver of exaggeration, In the Body of the World is a soul-stretching, life-changing read.” ―Maria Popova, Brainpickings

“Astonishing.” ―Mary Oliver

“A masterpiece. Ensler has accomplished the impossible: weaving together huge, bold, world-changing ideas with beautiful writing, amazing metaphors, and original structure. Truly one of the most courageous and original works of our time.” ―Naomi Klein

“Ensler has written a profound and vulnerable book, full of tenderness and strength. I was amazed by the clarity of her vision and the power of her message about the body and self. This book isn't meant only for patients; it is meant for anyone whose life has intersected with illness--in short, for all of us.” ―Siddhartha Mukherjee

“This book is a ride, a river ride through rapids and depths and shallows, dried-up eddies, whirlpools and torrents, crystal-clear pools and the vast ocean at the end. What a thrill and what a spear through the heart. I am astounded by the honesty and clarity of each word.” ―Elizabeth Lesser

“I dare anyone to read In the Body of the World without crying, without crying out, without getting up and rising to this beautiful broken world with awe and gratitude. There is no pity here, only the raw force of courage in the face of fear and violence, and the healing grace of honesty.” ―Terry Tempest Williams

“Eve Ensler incarnates the pain of the women in the Congo, victims of rape and torture; and of the Earth, victim of so much desecration. Her heart and body are broken, her anger is like fire, and the passion of her writing rattles your soul. This is true literature and true activism.” ―Isabel Allende

“Eve Ensler's memoir is not only wild and raw and incredibly important, it's also that rarest of achievements--a compulsively readable, stunningly rendered work of art that delivers hope and truth, challenge and solace, sometimes simultaneously.” ―Alexandra Fuller


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; Reprint edition (February 4, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1250043972
  • ISBN-13: 978-1250043979
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.6 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (121 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #324,103 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Eve Ensler is a Tony award winning playwright, performer and activist. She is the author of international phenomenon, The Vagina Monologues, which won an Obie and has been published in 48 languages and performed in over 140 countries. Eve wrote the New York Times Bestseller, I Am An Emotional Creature: The Secret Life Of Girls Around The World. She then adapted it as a play which ran to critical acclaim in South Africa, Paris, Berkeley and Off-Broadway. She is the founder of V-Day, the global movement to end violence against women and girls, which has raised over 100 million dollars for grassroots organizations around the world. On V-Day's 15th Anniversary, it launched it's most ambitious campaign One Billion Rising which inspired one billion people in 207 countries to Strike Dance and Rise on Feb 14, 2013 for the freedom, safety and equality of women. With the women of Congo, V-Day opened and supports City of Joy in Bukavu, Congo, a revolutionary center where survivors of gender violence Turn Their Pain to Power. Eve starred in the HBO version of The Vagina Monologues. Her play Here was filmed live by Sky Television in London, UK. She co-produced the documentary What I Want My Words to You which won the Freedom of Expression Award at Sundance. Her other plays include Necessary Targets, The Treatment and The Good Body, which she performed on Broadway, followed by a national tour. In 2006, Eve released her book, Insecure At Last: A Political Memoir, and co-edited A Memory, A Monologue, A Rant and a Prayer. Her newest book In The Body of the World will be published by Holt. Ensler lives in the world.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

35 of 36 people found the following review helpful By judith straffin on May 1, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Not for the squeamish or the fainthearted. Not for the indifferent or the complacent. Eve Ensler, famous for her play, The Vagina Monologues, has written an impassioned memoir which uses her personal story of enduring treatment for a huge, Stage IV uterine tumor, as a metaphor for our destruction of our planet and for our toleration of the atrocity of gang rape as a weapon of war. Again and again, Ensler shows us the links between her own ordeal and the ordeal of a suffering planet, especially its women.

Ensler became absorbed in the stories of these women, especially in Congo, who had been so savagely raped that they developed fistulae (a fistula is a tear in the vaginal wall), which made them permanently incontinent. Ensler was so horrified by their ordeals that she vowed to create, for these women, a refuge where they could heal, physically and emotionally. She pays tribute to a brilliant and selfless, heroic doctor, Dr. Mukwege, who has performed surgery on these damaged women, and to the women who, even if they cannot walk, still sing and dance, and who, in turn, help others like themselves. Ensler began fund-raising for a place, called City of Joy, where women could receive surgery to heal their bodies AND, at the same time, rescue their souls.

Given her own history, Ensler was shocked to discover the irony of a tumor the size of a grapefruit in her uterus. Although aware that something was wrong, she ignored the tumor until it had spread throughout her reproductive system, threatening her, at 57, with disfigurement and death. She shows us the links between her own personal denial and our collective denial of phenomena like global warming, the destruction of species, and the use of rape as a weapon of war.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Susan R. Meyer VINE VOICE on May 2, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I picked up this book because I'm impressed with Ensler's work. I've been moved by the Vagina Monologues. I'm amazed by her efforts to improve conditions for women all over the world. Reading a memoir of hers made sense. I didn't know about the part of her life she chronicles in this book. I was simply blown away to be immediately immersed in her experience with cancer. She is so clear and graphic that I felt like I was by her side throughout her diagnosis and treatment. At the same time, there's nothing sensationalist or maudlin here. I couldn't put the book down. I finished it in a single afternoon. To have stopped would have been to abandon Eve. Somehow, the cancer ties into Ensler's earlier abuse and her work in the Congo. She is feeling what the women she works with feel. She is releasing her own pain and reestablishing herself as a new, more complete person. There is such passion here - and such hope. I will share this book with the cancer survivors in my circle and recommend it for any woman who has struggled with disease, abuse, or shame.
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5.0 out of 5 stars "You must make up your mind. The reason that you have survived when so many have died was that y
Eve was "raised in America . All value lies in the future, in the dream, in production. There is no present tense." And eve has always lived outside her body at full speed taking on every experience as deeply as she can delve. From self destructive, drug addled promiscuity, she has raised herself to bear unflinching witness to the violations and torture of women. She has served as an activist, facing down injustice and most recently the actual "policy" of rape in the Congo. She implies, and I believe, that her unflinching immersion in that which is impossible to see would protect her from more violation to herself.

Well that didn't work. She has stage three or maybe stage four b uterine cancer. And just like that she has entered the world of the invisible where people cannot bear to look. I am a looker, and I believe in bearing witness so I deeply appreciate this journal of her illness laced with the scenes of horror she has witnessed. The rhetoric can really get away from her, but she is so deeply sincere, I cannot deduct points. And you can always skip the purple prose if you like.

She is not every woman's woman. She sees exclusive love partnerships as suspect. This after all is the author of the Vagina Monologues. She is not a flincher and she has not softened the lights for this story. But it is a true look at her disease. I appreciate her presence in the now, and take the point she makes to do so ourselves.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Trudie Barreras VINE VOICE on June 1, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Although I have never read or seen on stage "The Vagina Monologues", I was of course aware of the extreme importance of Ensler's endeavor to raise the consciousness of humanity to the tremendous abuses suffered by women around the globe. "In the Body of the World" seems to carry this awareness to an entirely new level, however.

It is not a book that can be called "enjoyable" in any trivial way. It is harsh, harrowing, and definitely not for either the weak minded or squeamish. Both the blow-by-blow description of Ensler's terrible cancer therapy, as well as her recounting of the atrocities perpetrated on women around the world but especially in the Congo, require the use of the adjective "horrific", and even that seems completely inadequate. In addition, Ensler turns the harsh light of honesty on her own emotions and reactions, including her internal struggles at the time of her mother's death. The only analogy I can come up with is the effect of turning on a 1000 watt bulb in a room infested with vermin and seeing them scuttle for cover. Some of this narrative is without question the stuff of nightmares, as for instance when Ensler, dealing with an incredibly noxious abdominal abscess following her surgery, links it in gruesome detail with the Gulf oil spill.

And yet, somehow this book avoids being disgusting and discouraging. Two chapters especially stand out, and in fact lifted my spirits in an indescribable way. One, with the unlikely title of "Farting for Cindy", is an absolutely magnificent paean of tribute to the reality of self-giving love, often where one least expects to find it.
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