In the Body of the World: A Memoir of Cancer and Connection

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Overview

Playwright, author, and activist Eve Ensler has devoted her life to the female body—how to talk about it, how to protect and value it. Yet she spent much of her life disassociated from her own body—a disconnection brought on by her father’s sexual abuse and her mother’s remoteness. “Because I did not, could not inhabit my body or the Earth,” she writes, “I could not feel or know their pain.”

But Ensler is shocked out of her distance. While working in the Congo, she is shattered ...

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In the Body of the World: A Memoir of Cancer and Connection

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Overview

Playwright, author, and activist Eve Ensler has devoted her life to the female body—how to talk about it, how to protect and value it. Yet she spent much of her life disassociated from her own body—a disconnection brought on by her father’s sexual abuse and her mother’s remoteness. “Because I did not, could not inhabit my body or the Earth,” she writes, “I could not feel or know their pain.”

But Ensler is shocked out of her distance. While working in the Congo, she is shattered to encounter the horrific rape and violence inflicted on the women there. Soon after, she is diagnosed with uterine cancer, and through months of harrowing treatment, she is forced to become first and foremost a body—pricked, punctured, cut, scanned. It is then that all distance is erased. As she connects her own illness to the devastation of the earth, her life force to the resilience of humanity, she is finally, fully—and gratefully—joined to the body of the world.

Unflinching, generous, and inspiring, Ensler's In the Body of the World calls on us all to embody our connection to and responsibility for the world.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“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

From the Publisher
“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

“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

Publishers Weekly
In this extraordinarily riveting, graphic story of survival, Ensler, an accomplished playwright (The Vagina Monologues) and activist in international groups such as V-Day, which works to end violence against women, depicts her shattering battle with uterine cancer. Having felt estranged from her body for a lifetime, and been molested as a girl by her father and enthralled by alcohol and promiscuity early on, Ensler as a playwright was seized with a political awareness of the dire violence committed against women across the globe. At the age of 57, she was blindsided when she discovered that her own health emergency mimicked the ones that women were enduring in the developing countries she had visited: "the cancer of cruelty, the cancer of greed... the cancer of buried trauma." Her narrative, she writes, is like a CAT scan, "a roving examination—capturing images," recording in minute, raw detail the ordeals she underwent over seven months. These include her crazed, "hysterical" response to the diagnosis and her treatment at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., as well as extensive surgery, chemo, radiation, and caring by a "posse" of companions in misery, like her estranged sister, Lu, and far-flung friends such as Mama C, the head of the City of Joy women's center in the Congo. Her anatomy of the invasion of women's bodies is often difficult to read; the lesson she learns is that in order to heal, she has to submit her body to a renewed source of love and joy. (Apr.)
Library Journal
Owing to sexual abuse as a child, the author of The Vagina Monologues initially felt no connection to her own body, which changed when she witnessed mass rape in the Congo.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781250043979
  • Publisher: Picador
  • Publication date: 2/4/2014
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 307,070
  • Product dimensions: 5.45 (w) x 7.82 (h) x 0.65 (d)

Meet the Author

Eve Ensler is an internationally bestselling author and an award-winning playwright whose works include The Vagina Monologues, The Good Body, Insecure at Last, and I Am an Emotional Creature, since adapted for the stage as Emotional Creature. She is the founder of V-Day, the global movement to end violence against women and girls, which has raised more than $90 million for local groups and activists, and inspired the global action One Billion Rising. Ensler lives in Paris and New York City.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 11, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    Review of In The Body of the World: A Memoir by Eve Ensler E

    Review of In The Body of the World: A Memoir by Eve Ensler




    Eve Ensler has dedicated her life as an activist for human rights. Her memoir, In The Body of the World, is a deeply personal story of survival that extends beyond a subjective view to a global perspective on the female condition.




    Eve Ensler defined her value in society and her place on the planet with work that has measurable achievements, such as The Vagina Monologues, and she has many accolades, including Newsweek’s 150 Women Who Changed the World. Admittedly driven to look about, not within, she went to over sixty countries to hear their survivor stories. Of her experiences in the Congo, where wars over minerals have ravaged the Earth as well as women and girls, she writes, “The stories saturated my cells and nervous system.”




    As an outspoken warrior, Eve Ensler has not been afraid to voice her concerns about the oppression of women. She has developed connections around the world that serve to educate and empower. Yet she tells the reader that she has been disconnected from her body, as if she lived detached from her own flesh and blood. She explores the concept of this disassociation and examines its origins when she is diagnosed with uterine cancer. She was raised in a home that exploded with anger and violence; her father attacked her body while her mother retreated in distant silence. As a result, Eve says that she despised her body; she abused it with drugs, alcohol, and sex. Then, with the diagnosis of cancer, she summons her considerable courage to determine what, if any, relationship there is between child abuse and uterine cancer. What if the actual cancer is a manifestation of buried trauma? She asks, “How many women with vaginal and uterine and ovarian cancer have been raped or beaten or traumatized?”




    Ms. Ensler defines the theme of the book: “Cancer threw me through the window of my disassociation into the center of my body’s crisis. The Congo threw me deep into the crisis of the world, and these two experiences merged as I faced the disease and what I felt was the beginning of the end.” To face the disease is to encounter immortality and endure the brutal treatments. She experiences the poking, pushing, and prodding of examinations as likened to the incest she suffered: “It goes on forever, me screaming, him shoving the needle attached to the long thick tube. Then he is done. I lie there on the table, stunned.” For the reader, it is a stunning association, and one can not help but ponder beyond the irony to a possible correlation between trauma and cancer.




    Although her cancer treatment was torturous, it was not the end. Eve Ensler continued her work in the Congo to help create the City of Joy. But this is not an enjoyable read for the faint of heart. It is gut-wrenching in its honest approach, full of raw emotion and family relationships, and dares the readers to “turn our pain to power.”

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 23, 2013

    Don't recommend

    Having worked in healthcare for 34 years I am well aware of what a human undergoes. Some of the worst procedures are hysterically described and deeply depersonalizing. However, Ms. Ensler makes one feel that she was the only who could describe the atrocities she was faced with. I am very glad that she is well but the short account of her endurance of her treatment process was inelegant and not helpful to someone who recognizes her name and is hoping for some emotional help as well as general medical knowledge of what she underwent. She could have written in a much quieter voice and still have told her story. She needs to remember that people need hope and a gentle voice - reading this book would make one wish for immediate death.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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