Pain Woman Takes Your Keys and Other Essays From a Nervous System

Pain Woman Takes Your Keys and Other Essays from a Nervous System, by Sonya Huber, University of Nebraska Press, 2017, 200 pages.

If this isn’t the book that we in the pain community need, I don’t know what is. The author, Sonya Huber, is an English professor who lives with rheumatoid arthritis. She is a gifted writer. Her book is not a linear story of her pain journey but a collection of literary and experimental essays that paint a real, intimate, searing, and honest portrait of the life of someone who struggles with pain. Huber writes, for example, about her decision to get a cane. On the way to buy it, she felt “the same kind of grim and desperate determination reserved for a breakup… I was going to murder the version of my life that had not accounted for canes.” In the book’s title essay, Huber tells about writing a blog post, “The Shadow Syllabus,” which went viral, to her great surprise. It came from a part of herself — Pain Woman — that doesn’t feel like her normal self. “Pain Woman has stuff to tell you, and she has one minute to do so before she’s too tired. Pain Woman knows things.” Here’s hoping we get the message.

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Matt Mendenhall is the former editor of Pain-Free Living.

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