Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Tolson 4 TEARS* Reviews "In the Body of the World: A Memoir" by Eve Ensler

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 mortality 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 encourages the readers to “turn our pain to power.”




Review completed by Lynn C. Tolson, author of Beyond the Tears: A True Survivor's Story

*Project 4 TEARS: Telling Everyone About Rape & Suicide
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