A Body, Undone

Living On After Great Pain

208 pages

March, 2016

ISBN: 9781479833535

$22.95

Cloth

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Author

Christina Crosby is a Professor of English and Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Wesleyan University. She is the author of The Ends of History: Victorians and the 'Woman Question' (1991) and has published essays and reviews in Victorian Studies, PMLA, College English, and elsewhere.

All books by Christina Crosby

In the early evening on October 1, 2003, Christina Crosby was three miles into a seventeen mile bicycle ride, intent on reaching her goal of 1,000 miles for the riding season. She was a respected senior professor of English who had celebrated her fiftieth birthday a month before. As she crested a hill, she caught a branch in the spokes of her bicycle, which instantly pitched her to the pavement. Her chin took the full force of the blow, and her head snapped back. In that instant, she was paralyzed.

In A Body, Undone, Crosby puts into words a broken body that seems beyond the reach of language and understanding. She writes about a body shot through with neurological pain, disoriented in time and space, incapacitated by paralysis and deadened sensation. To address this foreign body, she calls upon the readerly pleasures of narrative, critical feminist and queer thinking, and the concentrated language of lyric poetry. Working with these resources, she recalls her 1950s tomboy ways in small-town, rural Pennsylvania, and records growing into the 1970s through radical feminism and the affirmations of gay liberation.

Deeply unsentimental, Crosby communicates in unflinching prose the experience of "diving into the wreck" of her body to acknowledge grief, and loss, but also to recognize the beauty, fragility, and dependencies of all human bodies. A memoir that is a meditation on disability, metaphor, gender, sex, and love, A Body, Undone is a compelling account of living on, as Crosby rebuilds her body and fashions a life through writing, memory, and desire.

Reviews

  • "Part grueling diary of living with chronic pain and part celebration of survival, this is a complicated understanding of what it means to change your definition of living while living through it."

    Elle

  • "Most memoirs about life with a disability 'almost always move toward a satisfying conclusion of lessons learned," Crosby writes.  But Crosby knows that there are no satisfying conclusions when one lives 'a life beyond reason'--and that bit of wisdom alone is cause to read this elegant and harrowing book."

    The Washington Post

  • "[I]n her surgically incisive descriptions of how it feels to live in her ravaged body and to redefine herself within extreme new limits, Crosby resists both self-pity and the too-easy narrative of hardship overcome. Instead, she asks readers to recognize how messy, precarious, and queer, in every sense of the word, life in a body can be.”

    TheNewYorker.com

  • "In its intellectual generosity, its frankness, and its dexterous deployment of the resources of scholarship toward the ends of life writing, A Body, Undone recalls other invaluable memoirs of illness and disability by feminist academics like Susan Gubar’s Memoir of a Debulked Woman and Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick’s A Dialogue on Love, though unlike those antecedents Crosby engages explicitly with the now-robust field of disability studies."

    Feministing.com

  • "Our sense of ourselves cannot exist outside our bodies.  As such, Crosby's act of writing the body is a powerful act of self-preservation."

    Inside Higher Ed.

  • "Crosby discusses her reality with a candor that must be experienced to be believed.  And the reader is left to face the truth that one's embodiment and the world that goes with it) can change utterly and forever, in a heartbeat."

    Inside Higher Ed.

  • "[A Body, Undone] is fascinating and painful, humiliating and beautiful...There's no bitterness in these pages, no anger at the action that led to her injury."

    Mediander.com

  • "Perhaps the most profound lesson of Crosby's book is how lonely pain is...[she] is not the person whose suffering can be made into a vessel for other people's metaphors.  Her book's drama lies in trying to decode who she really is."

    New Republic

  • “[S]harp and transformative…A Body, Undone is about a calamitous accident, yes, but it’s also about the accident of all our lives, and the inevitable mortality that informs every one of our days.”

    Los Angeles Review of Books

  • "A potent memoir that rips open a most human heart."

    Kirkus Reviews

  • "Crosby’s powers of articulation, her ethical convictions, her deep knowledge of politics, literature, and culture, her queer commitments, and her dedication to using language to convey the farthest limits of embodied experience combine to make A Body, Undone a transformational read, one that underscores the basic facts of our interdependence, precarity, and capacity to sustain each other."

    —Maggie Nelson, Vela Magazine

  • "A Body, Undone is a memoir about surviving in the midst of community, reflecting on loss, the interminable nature of grief, and on the meaning of living on. Christina Crosby is a writer whose intellectually expansive reflection is simply awe-inspiring. With prose that can only be described as burning with lucidity and precision, she takes us through the aftermath of the accident and the gradual understanding of its implications for her physical and psychic life. An extraordinary and luminous book."

    —Judith Butler, author of Precarious Life

  • “Christina Crosby insists on the challenge of living on after great pain and loss and shows us what it is like to begin this altered life in one’s middle years. Tender, fierce, and eloquent, A Body, Undone is a necessary, even life-altering book.”

    —Laura S. Levitt, author of American Jewish Loss after the Holocaust