Pain Woman Takes Your Keys, and Other Essays from a Nervous System


Pain Woman Takes Your Keys, and Other Essays from a Nervous System

Sonya Huber

American Lives Series

204 pages


March 2017


$17.95 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

March 2017


$17.95 Add to Cart
eBook (EPUB)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

March 2017


$17.95 Add to Cart

About the Book

Rate your pain on a scale of one to ten. What about on a scale of spicy to citrus? Is it more like a lava lamp or a mosaic? Pain, though a universal element of human experience, is dimly understood and sometimes barely managed. Pain Woman Takes Your Keys, and Other Essays from a Nervous System is a collection of literary and experimental essays about living with chronic pain. Sonya Huber moves away from a linear narrative to step through the doorway into pain itself, into that strange, unbounded reality. Although the essays are personal in nature, this collection is not a record of the author’s specific condition but an exploration that transcends pain’s airless and constraining world and focuses on its edges from wild and widely ranging angles.

Huber addresses the nature and experience of invisible disability, including the challenges of gender bias in our health care system, the search for effective treatment options, and the difficulty of articulating chronic pain. She makes pain a lens of inquiry and lyricism, finds its humor and complexity, describes its irascible character, and explores its temperature, taste, and even its beauty.

Author Bio

Sonya Huber is an associate professor of English at Fairfield University. She is the author of Opa Nobody (Nebraska, 2008), Cover Me: A Health Insurance Memoir (Nebraska, 2010), and The Evolution of Hillary Rodham Clinton


"If this isn't the book that we in the pain community need in 2017, I don't know what is."—Matt Mendenhall, Pain-Free Living Magazine

"The theorist Elaine Scarry, in her magnum opus The Body in Pain, writes, 'The utter rigidity of pain itself is that its resistance to language is not simply one of its incidental or accidental tributes but is essential to what it is.' One can see Sonya Huber's Pain Woman Takes Your Keys, and Other Essays from a Nervous System as a glorious refusal of what Scarry puts forth. With ardor and valor, Huber renders the lived experience of chronic pain and all that attends it in a language all her own, written—as she so wonderfully phrases it—using 'pain's alphabet.' These essays make imprecision their enemy as they comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. Pain Woman further establishes Sonya Huber as one of the most exciting voices writing creative nonfiction today." —Vincent Scarpa, Electric Literature 

"Sonya Huber has restored my faith in chronic illness narratives. . . . Now, if I have my way, this book will sneak its way into the lives of many future readers, regardless of their personal experience with chronic illness."—Taylor Wilke, Rumpus

“Sonya Huber works magic by articulating the indescribable. With her lyrically written and witty account, she better describes her own pain experience than a patient rating scale of 1 to 10 ever could.”—Paula Kamen, author of All in My Head

“This is an important book, a necessary book, a book that, in the right hands, could change how our medical establishment deals with pain. These essays are at once vulnerable and fierce, funny and smart, unflinching and dappled with stunning metaphor.”—Gayle Brandeis, author of Fruitflesh

“Huber has captured what it is to be a woman who lives with chronic pain in all its nuanced complexity.”—Sarah Einstein, author of Mot: A Memoir

Table of Contents


I. Pain Bows in Greeting    
What Pain Wants    
The Lava Lamp of Pain    
Welcome to the Kingdom of the Sick    
The Alphabet of Pain    
Prayer to Pain    

II. Side Projects and Secret Identities    
My Alternate Selves with Pain in Silver Lamé Bodysuits    
The Cough Drop and the Puzzle of Modernity    
From Inside the Egg    
Amoeba Girl    

III. My Machines    
The Status of Pain    
Peering into the Dark of the Self, with Selfie    
Interstate and Interbeing    
Pain Woman Takes Your Keys    

IV. Bitchiness as Treatment Protocol    
On Gratitude, and Off    
Life Is Good1,2,3    
Dear Noted Feminist Scholar    

V. Intimate Moments with the Three of Us    
A Pain-Sex Anti-Manifesto    
The Joy of Not Cooking    
Kidney Stone in My Shoe    
If Woman Is Five    
A Day in the Grammar of Disease    

VI. Measuring the Sky    
Vital Sign 5    
Alternative Pain Scale    
In the Grip of the Sky    
Between One and Ten Thousand    
Inside the Nautilus    


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