Storied Companions: Trauma, Cancer, and Finding Guides for Living in Buddhist Narratives

Karen Derris. Wisdom, $18.95 trade paper (216p) ISBN 978-1-61429-575-4
In this forceful debut, Derris, professor of religious studies at the University of Redlands, examines through a Buddhist lens the traumas of her life and her struggles with terminal cancer, looking to such well-known stories as those of Buddha’s first encounter with illness, the rage of Milarepa’s mother, and the grief of Kisagotami. Derris gleans powerful lessons from her chosen narratives—including about the danger and power of the sick body, the consequences of attachment, and the interconnectedness of those grieving and those grieved—and exemplifies “reading as practice,” an exercise of cultivating the imagination and building empathy by “drawing stories into [one’s] own body” and finding parallels with one’s own experiences. Though she makes sense of her life through these narratives, she never sacrifices the personal for the scholarly: her stories are marked by disarming vulnerability, including how an emotionally abusive mother left lifelong feelings of shame within her and how arduous months of chemotherapy required a mindset shift toward welcoming the care of others. Derris provides a moving example of how everyday challenges to one’s life can help to build a stronger foundation. Buddhists looking for help through difficult moments will find much on offer here. (July)
Reviewed on : 07/13/2021
Release date: 07/01/2021
Genre: Religion
Book - 978-1-61429-599-0
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