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Cancer Made Me a Shallower Person: A Memoir in Comics Paperback – April 25, 2006
"Rebound" by Kwame Alexander
Don't miss best-selling author Kwame Alexander's "Rebound," a new companion novel to his Newbery Award-winner, "The Crossover," illustrated with striking graphic novel panels. Learn more
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From Publishers Weekly
Stricken with breast cancer at a disturbingly young age (43), Engelberg turned to cartooning to cope; the resulting work is both powerful and very funny. She starts at the very beginning, while awaiting her diagnosis. The story follows the cancer trail all the way through surgery, chemo, support groups, wigs, the distraction of cartooning, moving house while completely nauseated and the horror of a second diagnosis. In contrast to the heavy subject matter, Engelberg's artwork is naïve to the extreme, though it has some charm. The true strength of the book is its fusion of the deadly serious with the absurd, in the finest tradition of black humor. Engelberg's narrative is riveting. She traces the trajectory of both her diagnosis and her growing obsession with the crossword puzzle in the newspaper's TV guide—"must...avoid...inner...thought... processes," she announces. The reader discovers the author's difficulties in appreciating life's special moments, and witnesses the many compliments she receives on her post-chemo wig. We follow the way the medical profession communicates, the things people say when they don't know what to say and the utter incomprehensibility of not knowing if you're documenting your own slow death. It's extremely honest and extraordinarily powerful. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Engelberg was 43 and the mother of a 4-year-old when diagnosed with breast cancer. She underwent surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy in quick succession, and the cancer later metastasized to the brain. She lost her hair, experienced the seeming paradox of gaining weight on account of treatment, lost interest in sex, joined support groups in which she made new friends, and obsessed about what she might have done to bring on her illness or avoid it. She decided early on to make comics out of her travails, and if they are pretty rudimentary, they are very focused. Each one- to six-page helping of them centers tightly on a topic, incident, or such bits of fancy as an imaginary "Cancer Channel" and an infomercial for metastasis. Engelberg's daft sense of humor, never mean, gross, or flippant, serves readers, perhaps especially fellow cancer patients, as well as, maybe better than, it does her. Ray Olson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
Top customer reviews
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I LOVE the drawings and laugh out loud humor.
The only thing that would have made this book better would have been a sequel if the Cancer had not killed this beautiful, intelligent young person.
I thought that some of the pertinent things covered in the book are:
- blaming yourself for having eaten the wrong things or having lived the wrong lifestyle - eating all that cheese, or greasy junk food full of preservatives, or drinking all that diet soda, or talking too much on the cell phone.
- how people with different forms of cancer sometimes have trouble relating to each other and how people with the same forms of cancer tend to form cliques for this reason.
- the notion of being a cancer survivor: when does it begin (upon diagnosis?) and when does it end (are you still a survivor in your deathbed, drawing your last few gasps of air?)
If you have recently been diagnosed with cancer, or are fighting it, or know someone near and dear who is going through it - READ THIS BOOK. Add it to the list of how-to's and serious medical books. It will help you understand how the human psyche responds to this form of crisis just a little better.
By means of primitive cartoons and unflagging gentle humor, the author leads the reader through an array of experiences with family, friends, and therapists as she is affected by her diagnosis, treatment, relapse, and chemotherapy for breast cancer. She is a master of distillation, compressing life situations, philosophy, and religion into a handful of panels per page. How could any of this be funny? That's Engelberg's genius, her delightfully twisted perspective, honed by intelligence and sensitivity. Cancer Made me a Shallower Person is a must read for anyone who cares to understand the feelings of a cancer patient, be they be friend, physician, or family member.
Most recent customer reviews
I understand why this book is not for everyone.
When her breast cancer metastasized, Engelberg said, “You know, my first...Read more