Pain Woman Takes Your Keys

Pain Woman Takes Your Keys and Other Essays from a Nervous System

Huber_frontAmerican Lives Series, University of Nebraska Press
Hardcover, 204 p.
ISBN: 0803299915
March 1, 2017
Available from University of Nebraska Press
and any other outlet where you buy books

  • Amazon #1 New Release in “Chronic Pain,” March 2017
  • Bitch Media “Spring Reads,” March 2017

Advance Praise

“Sonya Huber works magic by articulating the indescribable. With her lyrically written and witty account, she better describes her own pain experience than a patient rating scale of 1 to 10 ever could.”—Paula Kamen, author of All in My Head

“This is an important book, a necessary book, a book that, in the right hands, could change how our medical establishment deals with pain. These essays are at once vulnerable and fierce, funny and smart, unflinching and dappled with stunning metaphor.”—Gayle Brandeis, author of Fruitflesh

“Huber has captured what it is to be a woman who lives with chronic pain in all its nuanced complexity.”—Sarah Einstein, author of Mot: A Memoir

Rate your pain on a scale of 1 to 10. What about on a scale of spicy to citrus? Is it more like a lava lamp or a mosaic? Pain, though a universal element of human experience, is dimly understood and sometimes barely managed. Pain Woman Takes Your Keys and Other Essays from a Nervous System is a collection of literary and experimental essays about living with chronic pain. Sonya Huber moves away from a linear narrative to step through the doorway into pain itself, into that strange, unbounded reality. Although the essays are personal in nature, this collection is not a record of the author’s specific condition but an exploration that transcends pain’s airless and constraining world and focuses on its edges from wild and widely ranging angles.

Huber addresses the nature and experience of invisible disability, including the challenges of gender bias in our health care system, the search for effective treatment options, and the difficulty of articulating chronic pain. She makes pain a lens of inquiry and lyricism, finds its humor and complexity, describes its irascible character, and explores its temperature, taste, and even its beauty.

Praise for Pain Woman Takes Your Keys

“Meditative, intimate essays consider the experience of suffering….Frank, thoughtful reflections that should resonate with the 47 percent of Americans reported to be living with chronic pain.” Kirkus, Nov. 21, 2016

“Huber uses pain as a lens through which she examines disability, gender bias, motherhood, and the very basic condition of living in a body….The lyricism and poetry-prose hybrid continues throughout the book, interspersed with narrative reported pieces, humorous anecdotes, and sharp social commentary. [An] honest, wise, and droll book.”-Gila Lyons, Bitch Media, Jan. 25, 2017

“Material handled in a manner like these essays contains impressive universality, worthy of a large readership. Those with depression, fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, or myriad other types of pain from diseases and conditions—even romantic breakups or family deaths—will find it relatable. However, before this University of Nebraska Press book has a chance to become whimsical or superficial, its author controls the prose with grace and elegance, and some humor.”–Nichole Reber, Ploughshares Blog, Feb. 28, 2017

“Please Read Sonya Huber’s Book, Pain Woman Takes Your Keys, for me or not for me and because it’s brilliant and good and while she is a woman and the world mostly publishes men and hears them as spectacular rock star stellar daring voices I promise you hers is so good so put your damn prejudice aside that she’s a woman being daring and make her rock star and make her go viral and give her millions and make her cult movie and make a plush toy in her honor that makes you feel better when you see it and even because you’ve named that plush toy Pain. And honor it as the pain every woman who is in pain almost all the time feels. Almost 99 percent of the time but manages to make art.” — Katherine McCord, Compulsive Reader, March 29, 2017

“As someone who hasn’t yet experienced chronic pain, I relied on Huber to draw me into her world, to show me what it feels like, to allow me to begin to understand an experience that many of us will, eventually, know first-hand. And she takes on this project masterfully, introducing her readers to pain just as she might introduce a family member. By the end of the book, I’d begun to see my current pain-free state as an aberration, as a temporary fiction, and I was grateful that she’d facilitated my entry into a world that is, in many ways, more real than the one I inhabit.”–Vivian Wagner, Brevity, March 21, 2017

“Pain Woman wrote this book. It is through the voice of Pain Woman that Huber tells her stories. She tries on metaphors; she makes pain a character with actions and personality traits. She tends to it, cares for it, listens to it, lets it speak.” Elizabeth Dark, “The Kingdom of the Sick,” River Teeth blog, April 7, 2017

“Humor and offhand brilliance meet testimony and literary art. All crafted from hard experience and a fierce struggle.” Richard Gilbert, “Pain’s Parallel Kingdom” (Author Q&A and Review), April 12, 2017

Media & Mentions

Featured on Amy Hassinger’s Podcast “The Literary Life” with audio recording of “In the Grip of the Sky,” March 29, 2017

Featured on the Quivering Pen blog, March 16, 2017

“Ah, Sonya Huber is one of my muses and simply being with her for ten seconds makes me want to stop everything and begin writing something. She has that Tinkerbell, Punky Brewster, Hermione, Katniss thing going on, so I never quite know if she is real or a figment of my imagination. Last night, Sonya was real. So was her collection. So is the Pain.” Bryan Crandall, March 3, 2017

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