Here's the press release from Loyola Press. publisher of my JUST-RELEASED new book. Kelly Hughes did a bang-up job and I thank her.
In conjunction with which, Loyola shilled for me and I just got invited to give a talk next February at that gigantic Religious Ed. Congress held at the Anaheim Convention Center each year.
I hope to speak on the vocation of the Catholic writer.
Heather King’s Memoir Stripped Offers Searing Look at
the Intersection of Cancer, Culture and Christ
Writer Heather King, a former barfly and a Catholic convert, brings her sharp wit and passionate faith to the story of her experience with cancer, a story that is about much more than the cells gone rogue in her breast. Stripped (Loyola Press, $14.95 paper, September 1, 2015) is a spiritual guide for those times when life bombards us with existential questions, and a critique of the American medical system and our ill-chosen cultural metaphors.
Cancer is a life-altering event that pushes us to reorder priorities, reassess values, and perhaps rethink our faith. A diagnosed tumor forced King to this crisis of mortality. Rather than declare “war” on cancer, she examined the medical evidence, and brought God into her decision-making—even if it meant going against established medical advice by refusing further treatment.
Disturbed by the war metaphor used in medicine and so many other areas of life, King refuses to buy into our culture’s “collective, complete denial of death.” Cancer language invokes battles and being a fighter, but King says “the gung ho American spirit that was always trying to win seemed to be deeply misguided, and never more so when people tried to drag God into the equation.”
The cancer nightmare—biopsy, the shock of diagnosis, surgery, making a treatment decision—was exacerbated by modern medicine. King, a former attorney, says “the medical profession ran exactly the same way the legal profession did: on fear, greed, apathy and a deep desire to have as little personal interaction as possible.”
King asserts that she is not anti-medicine, however. “I knew that to link cancer treatments with war was a stretch. But nonviolence is not only, or even primarily, a stance toward war. Nonviolence is a stance toward life.”
Cancer stripped everything down to essential questions: how did she want to live? How did she want to die? The conventional medical approach to cancer —“we poison you, burn you, but it’s a small price to pay to survive”—forced her to consider what it truly means to survive. King’s Christian faith compels her to offer her death to the world, when the time comes.
King was already a survivor, of years of hard living that included alcoholism and promiscuity. When she sobered up in the late ‘80s, “I no longer wanted to be anesthetized. Call it grace, call it the hand of God, call it a miracle—I had no trouble calling a miracle.” She married (and later, divorced), passed the California bar, began working as an attorney, ditched that to devote herself to writing, and became an “unabashed, straight-up Catholic.” Her conversion took hold as she met the Christ of the gospels, who, she discovered to her astonishment, “acted with unerring honesty, integrity, intelligence, courage, and above all, love, a kind of love that was always counterintuitive and of an entirely different order than the hearts and flowers love of Hallmark cards.”
King was extraordinarily lucky, she acknowledges. “Maybe more than we know, the potential for healing lies within ourselves. Not necessarily physical healing, but the spiritual healing by which we learn that the real tragedy is to die with our truest song unsung — to die without recognizing that our suffering has meaning,” she says.
Heather King is a Catholic convert with several books, among them Parched, Redeemed, Shirt of Flame, Poor Baby, and Stumble: Virtue, Vice and the Space Between. She writes a weekly column on arts and culture for The Tidings, lives in Los Angeles, and blogs at www.heather-king.com.
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Stripped: At the Intersection of Cancer, Christ, and Culture
by Heather King
5.5 x 8.5 Paperback
Contact: Kelly Hughes, 312-280-8126