Category: Adult non-fiction 18 yrs +, 296 pages
Publisher: She Writes Press.
Release date: August 2019
Content Rating: PG-13 + M.
In addition to its primary focus on confronting terminal illness in the context of a complex mother-daughter relationship, this book addresses mature themes of sexuality (specifically BDSM), death, and illness. Conversations about sexuality are related, sex toys and body parts are mentioned by name, but there are no actual erotic sex scenes. There are healthcare scenes that describe procedures and bodily functions and fluids. There is a fair amount of poop in some scenes. The F-word appears once, on page 167, used in an expletive sense. The word “shit” appears twice, once as an expletive on p. 51 and once in reference to bodily waste and also metaphorically.
What happens when a forty-something, community college sociology professor learns that her mother―a charming, passive-aggressive, and a needy woman who hasn’t had a lover in decades―has started seeing men who want to be bound, whipped, and sexually dominated? What happens when that same mother, shortly after diving into her newly discovered sexuality develops cancer that forces her to accept radical changes to her body, and then another that forces her, and everyone around her, to confront her mortality? In Bound, Elizabeth Anne Wood addresses these questions as she chronicles the last eight months of her mother’s life―a period she comes to see, over the course of months, as a maternity leave in reverse: she is carrying her mother as she dies. Throughout their journey, Wood uses her notebook as a shield to keep unruly emotions at bay, often taking comfort in her role as advocate and forgetting to “be the daughter,” as one doctor reminds her to do. Meanwhile, her mother’s penchant for denial and her childlike tendency toward magical thinking lead to moments of humor even as Wood battles the red tape of hospital bureaucracies, the frustration of planning in the midst of an unpredictable illness, and the unintentional inhumanity of a health care system that too often fails to see the person behind the medical chart.
* Kew and Willow is Dr. Wood’s local indie bookstore. If you put a comment in the order form saying that you want a signed copy, they’ll call the author to come down and sign your book. They also do a lovely wrapping job.
We can and must do the work of making the connections. In Bound I make pointed criticisms of the organization of health care in the United States. Those criticisms were not made in the context of Covid-19, but they are relevant. In addition, I point out in Bound places where structural racism benefited us as a white family and where, even with our whiteness and our financial and educational advantages, we were not able to prevail. It is essential that we critically examine our own stories and find connections to the stories of others because…
Our personal stories are how we build empathy across movements, and we need people working across movements and across issues if we are going to change the world. Why does the death of a single individual spark our outrage in ways that dozens of news articles about large-scale patterns of state violence do not? Because when we focus on a person, we focus on their story. Stories move people much more than data does.
We can use our stories to create space for others to share theirs. Storytelling creates vulnerability. When we make ourselves vulnerable, we create openings into which others can others to step. My favorite way to talk about Bound is to use short bits of storytelling as invitations to encourage others to share. When I do this, I’m humbled and moved by the stories of others.
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