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The Adventures of Cancer Bitch Hardcover – March 16, 2009

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Editorial Reviews


"The Adventures of Cancer Bitch is witty and relentless, surprising and honest. Wisenberg has walked through the Valley of Cancer and she is willing to tell all; this is a cornucopia of breast cancer information as well as a very smart, funny read from an excellent writer."—Audrey Niffenegger, author, The Time Traveler’s Wife

“Forget the sappy little pink ribbons. When chemotherapy takes S. L. Wisenberg's hair, she turns her bald head into an antiwar billboard. Read The Adventures of Cancer Bitch to meet a smart, funny, big-hearted woman who questions everything from her own mortality to career envy to why nobody thinks the particulars of hair loss are as fascinating a subject for extended dinner-party conversation as she does. Along the way, Wisenberg makes you proud to think that you, too, might possibly be a cancer bitch.”—Ruth Pennebaker, author, Both Sides Now

“Frank, funny, fierce, and at times devastating, Cancer Bitch is a rare achievement. S. L. Wisenberg has written a book of tremendous value for anyone who has ever had cancer or anyone who has ever worried about getting it; in short, everyone."— Rachel Schukert, author, Have You No Shame? and Other Regrettable Stories

About the Author

S. L. Wisenberg is the author of The Sweetheart Is In and Holocaust Girls: History, Memory, and Other Obsessions. The New Yorker, Ploughshares, Tikkun, the New England Review, and the Michigan Quarterly Review have published her poetry and prose, and her work has been widely anthologized, most recently in Rules of Thumb: 73 Authors Reveal Their Fiction Writing Fixations, Short Takes: Brief Encounters with Contemporary Nonfiction, and Creating Nonfiction: A Guide and Anthology. She is a codirector of Northwestern University's MA/MFA in creative writing as well as a visiting scholar in Gender Studies at Northwestern. She also teaches at the University of Chicago Graham School of General Studies. Her blog Cancer Bitch can be read at

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 160 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Iowa Press; 1 edition (March 16, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1587298023
  • ISBN-13: 978-1587298028
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #483,450 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Dennis W. Pyritz on January 31, 2010
Format: Hardcover
A person's response to cancer reflects that person's personality, their upbringing, and their culture as well as their biology. These differences are what we find interesting about their stories although it may be the universality of the cancer experience that we hope to discover and, in doing so, find affirmation of our own. Cancer blogger, Sandi Wisenberg, happens to be a professional writer. Not all cancer writers are. She demonstrates her talents easily with phrases like - "It's the subtlety of it, as cruel as a mean girl's gossip, almost not there but there."
Her "Cancer Bitch" reads like someone who has thrown herself open to the experience, emotionally and intellectually buffeted by the currents, recording everything just as it washes over her. She takes us through the drama of her diagnosis of breast cancer, her mastectomy and aftercare, fussing with drainage tubes and specialty apparel.
"The Adventures of Cancer Bitch" took an atypical route for cancer memoirs. The tone is very straightforward, cynical at times, whimsical at others. It is largely an unsentimental telling. The author does not appeal so directly to our emotions. Nor does the success of the book depend upon humor. Indeed the prominent variations found in books about cancer experiences fall into either the "cancer profoundly changed my life for the better" camp or the "I had to laugh so I wouldn't cry" school.
The author's strong political convictions prompt her to question the purity of motive of big corporations acting as sponsors for cancer fundraising events, the well-publicized, media-blanketed events that allow everyone to feel good about the 'cause'. Where do the dollars go? research into more effective drugs with ever-higher profit margins? or prevention and early detection efforts?
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By DjDan12 on May 14, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I came to this book by accident... a happy accident! I had read Wisenberg's first book, the linked short story collection, "The Sweetheart is in" about 5 years back - and it really made an impression on me: a fresh voice writing short fiction. It should have been lauded that year perhaps right up there with A.M. Holmes "Safety of Objects" - both were kind of best in show picks for me that year for new writing (Holmes' book of course got optioned into a movie not the equal of its source text... perhaps Wisenberg's new book would have gotten aisle-end retail displays if she too had been optioned by Hollywood straight out of the gate.)

But "Sweetheart" barely prepared me for the raw truth telling that I found in "Adventures of Cancer Bitch." If you liked Frank McCourt's "Angela's Ashes" or Alfred Kazin's "Walker in the City," Wisenberg's "Cancer Bitch" is the 21st century inheritor to the throne in the memoir milieu.

We are deeply rooted in sense of place (Chicago's Wrigleyville), in sense of time (2006-2007 - on the eve of political change pre-Pres. Obama), and in sense of those who share Sandi Wisenberg's nitty-gritty reality of living with cancer (her husband, her best friends - who she shepherds through their own ordeal with M.S. and the loss of one of their children to cancer years earlier). Cancer is what happens to you when you are making other plans, and no where is this more clear that in Wisenberg's books. Yes, cancer, but first, the dishes, and the writing students she is preparing to teach, and the reviews she has to write for print, and the (telling) visits from her mother, that give us a sense of the strong older women Wisenberg is growing into one day - years after cancer in a memory.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Claudia Springer on March 14, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Life goes on during cancer treatments, and Wisenberg shows that a sense of humor is an advantage. Her thoroughly engrossing book chronicles the ups and downs of treatment and more--being a wife, friend, daughter, teacher, and discerning observer of the absurdities of contemporary life. This is a captivating read!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Susan Messer on March 5, 2009
Format: Hardcover
The thing about Cancer Bitch is you don't have to worry about getting pep talks or anything soft or fuzzy from her. Some people want that sort of thing. But for my money, I like the pure intelligence of Cancer Bitch, the willingness to take on the bitch mantle and everything that goes with it.
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