Audre Lorde, The Cancer Journals
Poet and scholar, Audre Lorde, boldly declares that women, and especially Black women, have been “rendered invisible by depersonalization.” She furthers her argument, by denoting that women without two functioning breasts are even more demonized because they have entered into a space “where women must mourn the loss of their breast in secret.” This meticulous violation of the body directs her fresh discovery of : what does it mean to be a woman with one breast. In her continual quest for a reclamation of her identity, she finds power through the pain, while coping with the how-ness of hatred and violence, that remains ignored and becomes destructive.
That is my brief summation of Lorde’s The Cancer Journals. Though this may not have been her most talk about work like Sister Outsider, it was a book that reoriented me to what it means to survive in pain— a soul-altering project. Lorde “carried” us through her journey with breast cancer but never allows us the notion of just watching her but never seeing her; or, the unjustly act of being made a spectacle but never the spectator, as Fred Moten would declare. As Audre Lorde is fighting cancer, a disease that attacks the body, she wrestles with her body and its flailing capacities. She is rehabilitating and readjusting herself to her home but her own body is forcing her to make other decisions, whether she wants to or not. She knows that if she does not make a “conscious commitment to survive” then she will not make it.
The Cancer Journal are the words of a poet who found understanding and found themselves. They are some of the most concrete words that one can ever read about loss and pain in the midst of unwavering love.