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Mourning a Breast


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Published by:
NYRB Classics
Translated by:
Jennifer Feeley
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By Xi Xi, part of the first generation of writers raised in Hong Kong, a wise and amiably written book of autobiographical fiction on the author's experience with breast cancer--from diagnosis to treatment to recovery--and her passage from a life lived through the mind into a life lived through the body.

In 1989, the acclaimed Hong Kong writer Xi Xi was diagnosed with breast cancer. Her semi-autobiographical novel Mourning a Breast is a disarmingly honest and inventive account of the author's experience of a mastectomy and of her subsequent recovery. The book opens with her putting away a bathing suit. As the routine pleasure of swimming is revoked, the small loss stands in for the greater one. But Xi Xi's mourning begins to take shape as a form of activism. Addressing her reader as frankly and unashamedly as an old friend, she describes what she is going through; finds consolation in art, literature, and cinema; and advocates for a universal literacy of the body. Mourning a Breast was heralded as one of the first Chinese-language books to cast off the stigma of writing about illness and to expose the myths associated with breast cancer. It is a radical novel about creating in the midst of mourning.