To highlight the publication of the new edition of The Cancer Journals by Penguin Classics, Penguin Random House is partnering with the Black Women’s Health Imperative (BWHI) to connect the real-world impact of author Audre Lorde’s work with the community that influenced it.
The month of October marks both Breast Cancer Awareness month in the U.S. and, this year, the 40th anniversary of The Cancer Journals. First published in 1980, The Cancer Journals detailed Lourde’s fight against breast cancer, in an intimate look at her upbringing, passions as an activist, emotional releases and recognitions, and how cancer served as a catalyzing experience in her life. After its publication, the book served as a major work of prose for Lorde, who was named a New York State Poet just before her death. Even after her passing, The Cancer Journals continues to exist as an in-depth look at how cancer causes survivors to rethink what they know of identity and more.
The new edition of The Cancer Journals is being released today with a new foreword from Tracy K. Smith. A poet herself, Smith served as the United States’ poet laureate from 2017 to 2019. In 2011, her poetry volume Life on Mars won the Pulitzer Prize. Since then, she has continued to publish, including her most recent collection of work, which was published in 2019.
While Lorde’s work is an essential read for all cancer survivors, her role as a Black feminist intrinsically defined the book and its cultural response. In the U.S. alone, over 3.5 million women have a personal history of breast cancer, but Black women are affected by the disease at a disproportionate rate. According to the Centers For Disease control, while Black and white women get breast cancer at the same rate, Black women are 42% more likely to die of the disease than white women, a disparity that has existed for over four decades. A major idea in Lorde’s writing was the added struggle of being a Black woman with cancer. In The Cancer Journals, Lorde recalls her experience in vivid detail, reconciling with the feeling of being altered, while refusing to accept that her cancer experience made her victim. Instead, Lorde stood firm in her survivorhood, which she attributed to the women around her whose community uplifted her through her diagnosis.
As part of its partnership with BWHI, PRH is encouraging donations to the organization and said it will match donations to BWHI for all U.S employees, up to $2,500.