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Show Me Where it Hurts

Show Me Where it Hurts: Living with Invisible Illness

Kylie Maslen

  • awardShortlisted, Non-Fiction, Victorian Premier's Literary Awards, 2021
  • My body dictates who I am. I work the way I do because of my body, I vote the way I do because of my body and I live the way I do because of my body. It is not my body that is at fault, but society’s failure to deal with bodies like mine. I might be in pain, but I am whole. I refuse to have the difficult parts cropped out.

    Kylie Maslen has been living with invisible illness for twenty years—more than half her life. Its impact is felt in every aspect of her day-to-day existence: from work to dating; from her fears for what the future holds to her difficulty getting out of bed some mornings. 

    Through pop music, art, literature, TV, film and online culture, Maslen explores the lived experience of invisible illness with sensitivity and wit, drawing back the veil on a reality many struggle—or refuse—to recognise. Show Me Where it Hurts is a powerful collection of essays that speak to those who have encountered the brush-off from doctors, faced endless tests and treatments, and endured chronic pain and suffering. But it is also a bridge reaching out to partners, families, friends, colleagues, doctors: all those who want to understand what life looks like when you cannot simply show others where it hurts.



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    Kylie Maslen
    About the Author

    Kylie Maslen is a writer and critic. Her work has appeared in the Guardian, Meanjin, Kill Your Darlings, Adelaide Review, Crikey and Junkee, among other outlets. In 2018 she was the recipient of the Kill Your Darlings New Critics Award, and her essay ‘I’m Trying to Tell You I’m Not Okay’ was longlisted for the Lifted Brow & RMIT...

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    1 September 2020
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    Praise for Kylie Maslen
    andShow Me Where it Hurts

    Show Me Where It Hurts gives new energy to the unspeakable grind of chronic illness—it’s arresting, honest and rightfully angry. An essential read for anyone who cares about anyone else.’

    ‘It is liberating to read Maslen’s tireless probe into the anatomy of the chronic illnesses that have for years exhausted her body. Maslen is meticulous, diagnosing what else is invisible alongside her illness—pain, isolation, grief, sacrifice, repetition and the failure of others to understand. She generously lays bare what sickness steals and what it leaves behind. This book is obligatory reading for anyone who wants to better understand and love someone who is suffering.’

    Show Me Where It Hurts is remarkable for the way in which it balances humour and rage as it charts the injuries and injustices—as well as the moments of solace and love—that come with living with chronic illness and pain. Maslen’s writing is quick and sharp, and keen on addressing stigma and taboos. This is a fascinating account of visual representations of illnesses that are unseen, and of what it means to reconsider and to continue to live a life that has been changed by disability and disease.’

    ‘Everyone must read Show Me Where It Hurts. This collection of essays about chronic pain and invisible illness not only validates and represents the experiences of those who have too long been ignored, gaslighted or diminished by medical professionals and wider society, but acts as a much-needed wake-up call for those who are able-bodied yet presume to know what it might be like to live with disability. Maslen is a writer of formidable intelligence, and has an uncanny ability to pull apart the fabric of popular culture to reveal the prejudices threaded throughout. Show Me Where It Hurts is honest, powerful and brilliant. It will change minds.’

    ‘In this generous and urgent book, Kylie Maslen has built a wide, sensory world that charts a history of invisible illness with tenderness and clarity. Show Me Where It Hurts will forge true understanding between a world that causes or ignores pain, and those that bear its load.’

    ‘[Kylie Maslen’s] confessional style helps illuminate the misogyny of a medical establishment that frequently disbelieves or underplays women’s health problems…Show Me Where It Hurts is a timely and engaging essay collection for readers of nonfiction that’s unflinching yet compassionate, such as Clare Bowditch’s Your Own Kind of Girl and Lisa Taddeo’s Three Women.’

    Show Me Where It Hurts rejects the sympathy of the reader as much as it evokes their empathy and understanding. Maslen’s breadth of knowledge and willingness to frame her arguments within her lived experience make her a compelling writer.’

    ‘Maslen’s book is sharp and defiant, told through a prism of pop culture and delivered with a punch, reinforcing the debilitating pain that so often consumes her.’

    ‘This book is part of a cultural movement towards telling stories that have been so neglected…The essays will be immediately relatable to the many millions of us who encounter chronic illness, and offer an important translation for those who don’t.’

    ‘[A] powerful debut.’

    Show Me Where It Hurts is an immediately immersive personal essay collection that explores the experience of chronic pain…[it is] passionate and intermittently joyful, too.’

    ‘It’s this chronicling of a life lived in pain combined with her insights into the structures of work, ableism and housing, as well as the representation of mental ill health, disability and illness in books, TV, movies and more, that makes Maslen’s book so incisive.’

    ‘A worthy read that does not mystify ‘female’ illness, but rather shows the ordinariness of constant, huge, belittled, life-altering pain.’

    ‘Maslen’s book feels comparable to works such as Fiona Wright’s The World Was Whole or Katerina Bryant’s Hysteria; to Michaela Coel’s series I May Destroy You or Hannah Gadsby’s Nanette. Indeed, her writing harnesses the same kind of vertiginous style that made Gadsby’s breakthrough so resonant: examining problems until, having categorically exhausted them, there is nowhere left to go…[Show Me Where it Hurts] often manages a kind of heady brilliance.’

    ‘[Maslen] has managed to tap into finding a description for how [chronic pain] feels and that is just goddamn valuable…It’s completely possible that my neurologist will get highlighted bits of Kylie Maslen’s book when I rock up to see him, because she can explain it better than I can.’

    ‘You might call this the beginnings of an Empathy Exams for the Australian psyche…Show Me Where it Hurts is essential reading for those of us with the privilege of having a body that behaves itself, and anyone who seeks to better love and care for others.’

    ‘[Kylie Maslen’s] carefully researched essays demand the reader to see her as a whole person, one whose life is both similar to and different from theirs…Maslen interrogates what a fulfilled life looks like, inviting readers to reflect on their own body, how it is perceived and the structures that enable, or inhibit, one’s choices.’

    ‘A corporeal rebellion…In writing of [her] chronic and mental illnesses, [Maslen ruptures] the narrative that a successful body is a well body, and [opens] a space for new and original accounts of how those bodies mediate the world.’

    ‘Maslen delivers observations about the entrenched ableism in Australian society with a charming frankness that make this thought-provoking debut memorable.’

    ‘Maslen writes generously, neither apologising for nor beclouding the banal and fraught reality of everyday life with chronic and painful illness…[Her] story is one of acceptance coupled with the radical pursuit to find beauty in the quiet; to survive and cultivate an understanding of one’s self and one’s body amid the state’s inability to do so. At this point, it’s possible that this is all that one can do and it’s a feat that Maslen has taken on and documented remarkably.’

    Show Me Where it Hurts is an important book simply for existing, for giving voice to those previously voiceless in literature, and for critiquing our ableist society in the hope that even one reader might understand more clearly…We can look towards books like this for honest, ferocious examinations that normalise rather than pedestalise, advocate rather than purport victory. I have no doubt this book will put Maslen in high demand and we’ll be seeing her name more and more.’

    ‘[A collection] that discusses the experience of chronic illness and the way it can reshape a life, writing with great intelligence, heart and humour.’

    ‘A powerful essay collection that blends criticism and memoir to explore living with invisible illness.’

    ‘Maslen’s essays, acutely intimate, underpinned by an engaged and wide-ranging intelligence, mostly inhabit a kind of ebb and flow, shifting between experience and cultural reflection…Maslen, and others writing with grit and wisdom, not only foster our empathy and understanding but spur us towards solidarity, to work together for a world of radical care.’

    ‘A Millennial masterpiece. It is many things: confessional literature, a review of pop culture and a fight for disability awareness and representation all at once. A source of both tears and laughter, the book comes with an important message.’

    Other editions ofShow Me Where it Hurts
    • Show Me Where it Hurts
      ISBN: 9781925923582
      1 September 2020
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