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Rewriting Illness: A View of My Own by Elizabeth Benedict


A co-publication of Mandel Vilar Press and Dryad Press
ISBN:9781942134916 / Paper with Flaps / 216 pages / $21.95
E-ISBN:9781942134909 / eBook / 216 pages / $9.99

Postage-free in the U.S.

“By turns witty, vivid, and harrowing, as though Nora Ephron had written a book called ‘I Feel Bad About My Tumor.” Thomas Beller

With wisdom, self-effacing wit, and the story-telling artistry of an acclaimed novelist and essayist, Elizabeth Benedict recounts her cancer diagnosis, and misdiagnoses, and doctor delays, after discovering multiplying lumps in her armpit. In sharply-paced, propulsive sentences, she tracks the progress of her illness and treatments, including her obsessive “natural remedies,” from Tibetan Buddhist chanting to shots of wheatgrass with turmeric. Benedict’s sagacity jackets her fears, which are personal, political, and ultimately global. Amidst weighty concerns of the Covid pandemic and an all-consuming obsession over the outcomes of chemotherapy, Rewriting Illness is charged with suspense, secrets, and the unexpected solace of silence.

Read Benedict’s essay “Writing (and Rewriting) Illness” in The Millions

Read Boston Globe review: “Elizabeth Benedict’s Rewriting Illness injects tragicomedy a personal account of cancer diagnosis and treatment.”

KIRKUS REVIEWS: A fine antidote to anodyne cancer accounts.


Elizabeth Benedict
, whose novels include the national bestseller, Almost, and the National Book Award finalist, Slow Dancing, authored the classic book on writing about sex in fiction, The Joy of Writing Sex, in print for 25 years. Her personal essays have been selected as “Notable” in five editions of Best American Essays. She has written reviews and articles for The New York Times, Boston Globe, Esquire, Rea Simple, and Daedalus, and been a regular contributor to Japanese Playboy, Huffington Post, and Salmagundi, writing on sexual politics, money, and literature, and on figures from Monica Lewinsky to British psychoanalyst Adam Phillips. 

She conceived of and edited three prominent anthologies, including NY Times bestseller, What My Mother Gave Me: 31 Women on the Gifts That Mattered Most. Her books are featured regularly in reviews and interviews on All Things Considered, Fresh Air, and many other public radio shows, including the BBC’s “Women’s Hour,” and Australia Public Radio. A graduate of Barnard College, Ms. Benedict has taught creative writing at Princeton, the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and Columbia, and is on the Fiction Faculty at the New York State Summer Writers Institute. Visit her website: https://www.elizabethbenedict.com/



Advance Praise for Rewriting Illness

“In Rewriting Illness, Elizabeth Benedict isn’t just rewriting the narrative she’s given when she’s diagnosed with cancer–she’s gifting us her company, which I couldn’t get enough of. With grace, wit, and refreshing candor, she turned her encounter with cancer into an intimate drama, a dark comedy, and a meditation on marriage, motherhood, friendship, secrets, fragility, and love, and in doing so, she asks us to pay attention to everything in our lives that really matters. When I finished the book, I felt like I had made a new friend, and all I wanted was to keep our conversation going. This is more than a memoir; it’s an experience.”
Lori Gottlieb, author of Maybe You Should Talk to Someone and co-host of the “Dear Therapist” podcast. 

“As a physician at teaching hospitals, I was reluctant to take my work home with me and read Elizabeth Benedict’s memoir about her encounter with cancer. But I was immediately caught up in Rewriting Illness. Her candor, self-effacing wit, storytelling, and probing of how doctors communicate are riveting. With vivid scenes and a light touch, she explores her own experience and the language we use (or avoid using), our discomfort with uncertainty, and the consequences of these choices on our patients when they’re out of our sight. Her surprisingly entertaining memoir should be required reading for every medical student, resident, and physician, prompting us to reflect on how we talk to and care for our patients – an ideal teaching tool.”  Kathy G. Niknejad, MD, Faculty, Harvard Medical School 

“Nuanced, thoughtful, with not a cliché in sight. Impossible to put down because the rich inner life of the writer – this excellent writer—is so compelling. The story she tells … is a reflection of encountering the unpredictable vicissitudes of life, and its one certainty.” Katherine Dalsimer, Weill Cornell Medical College; author of Virginia Woolf: Becoming a Writer and Female Adolescence: Psychoanalytic Reflections on Literature. 

“I devoured Elizabeth Benedict’s beautiful book in one sitting. I’m move and astonished by how she made her cancer story universal, even for someone who is not yet, knock wood, a member of that club.” Betsy West, Documentary director: RBG, Julia, Gabby Giffords Won’t Back Down.

“Elizabeth Benedict’s book is brave,, heartening and beautiful. We avert our eyes from the deep terror that she must face; she faces it and faces it down. This book is a lesson in how to live. Brava.” Roxana Robinson, author of Sparta Dawson’s Fall, Georgia O’Keefe: A Life

“Elizabeth Benedict brings a novelist’s deft storytelling to a narrative we think we already know. It’s full of drama, humor, essential lessons for dealing with doctors, crushing vulnerability, and, wonderfully, plenty of hope.” Mara Liasson, NPR National Political Correspondent

“Witty, vivid, and harrowing . . .as though Nora Ephron had written a book called I Feel Bad About My Tumor.” Thomas Beller, author of J.. Salinger: The Escape Artist and How to Be a Man: Scenes from a Protracted Boyhood

“This is the kind of inspiring book you want to share with all the important people in your life.” Sigrid Nunez, author of What Are You Going Through and The Friend, A novel, 2018 Winner the National Book Award for Fiction

“Elizabeth Benedict’s beautiful, brave memoir about her own fears, especially fear of illness, which was eventually realized and had to be overcome, has so much to say about rational and irrational anxieties and the way they haunt women and deprive us of the larger life we crave.” Katha Pollitt, author of Learning to Drive and Other Life Stories            

“Superbly intelligent and surprisingly entertaining memoir. .  She writes with an honesty and a sly sense of humor about herself that make this book hard to put down.” Stephen McCauley, author of My Ex-Life

“A frank, riveting and often hilarious memoir If you’ve had cancer, or love someone who’s had or has it, or are just plain afraid. . . then you’ll want to read this book.” Claire Messud, Author of The Emperor’s Children and The Burning Girl.