Choice's Outstanding Academic Title list for 2013
Cutting, burning, branding, and bone-breaking are all types of self-injury, or the deliberate, non-suicidal destruction of one’s own body tissue, a practice that emerged from obscurity in the 1990s and spread dramatically as a typical behavior among adolescents. Long considered a suicidal gesture, The Tender Cut argues instead that self-injury is often a coping mechanism, a form of teenage angst, an expression of group membership, and a type of rebellion, converting unbearable emotional pain into manageable physical pain.
Based on the largest, qualitative, non-clinical population of self-injurers ever gathered, noted ethnographers Patricia and Peter Adler draw on 150 interviews with self-injurers from all over the world, along with 30,000-40,000 internet posts in chat rooms and communiqués. Their 10-year longitudinal research follows the practice of self-injury from its early days when people engaged in it alone and did not know others, to the present, where a subculture has formed via cyberspace that shares similar norms, values, lore, vocabulary, and interests. An important portrait of a troubling behavior, The Tender Cut illuminates the meaning of self-injury in the 21st century, its effects on current and former users, and its future as a practice for self-discovery or a cry for help.
“Insightful and sympathetic…The extraordinary depth of knowledge of the dimensions of self-injuring will increase the understanding of those who see self-injurers in their work and private lives.”
—Ruth Horowitz, author of Honor and the American Dream: Culture and Identity in a Chicano Community
"Timely, important…In their thorough treatment of the subject, the authors include a history and literature review of this difficult topic, discussions of case histories, and examinations of relational dynamics and social contexts that may lead to cutting…This is a must read for those connected in any way to this topic."
- "But more than a compendium of personal accounts, The Tender Cut charts self-injury's shift from a behavior regarded as pathological and practiced by demonstrably mentally ill to a more widely accepted coping mechanism and a vehicle for the assertion of will or identity...thought-provoking books sheds a many-rayed light on a topic often shrouded in darkness."
—Haili Jones Graff, Bitch Magazine
- "Social, psychological and cultural insights abound in this recommendation for college-level health holdings."
—The Midwest Book Review
- "Adler views self-harm as a kind of 'self-help', rather than a near-suicidal expression."
—Emine Saner, The Guardian
"The Tender Cut presents a comprehensive discussion of self-injury through a sociological lens...[it] will be...relevant to other people providing support and advice to people who self-harm."
—Emily Klineberg, Sociology of Health & Illness
"Adler and Adler's expansive work draws in and integrates multiple perspectives and addresses timely and important issues in the field of self-injury."
—Stephen P. Lewis + Michele L. Davis, Contemporary Psychology
"The Tender Cut is an exhaustive, compelling...sociological study."
"successfully gives a face to self-injury and how it fits into the larger realm of social understating"
—J Youth Adolescence
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