Show Me Where it Hurts

Kylie Maslen

Show Me Where it Hurts
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Show Me Where it Hurts

Kylie Maslen

“My body dictates who I am. I work the way I do because of my body, I vote the way I do because of my body and I live the way I do because of my body. It is not my body that is at fault, but society’s failure to deal with bodies like mine. I might be in pain, but I am whole. I refuse to have the difficult parts cropped out.”

Kylie Maslen has been living with invisible illness for twenty years-more than half her life. Its impact is felt in every aspect of her day-to-day existence- from work to dating; from her fears for what the future holds to her struggles to get out of bed some mornings.

Drawing on pop music, art, literature and online culture, Maslen explores the lived experience of invisible illness with sensitivity and wit, drawing back the veil on a reality many struggle-or refuse-to recognise. Show Me Where it Hurts- Living with Invisible Illness is a powerful collection of essays that speak to those who have encountered the brush-off from doctors, faced endless tests and treatments, and endured chronic pain and suffering. But it is also a bridge reaching out to partners, families, friends, colleagues, doctors- all those who want to better understand what life looks like when you cannot simply show others where it hurts.    

Review

In Kylie Maslen’s generous debut collection of essays, Show Me Where It Hurts, she invites the reader into her experience of chronic pain. Hers, not anyone – or everyone – else’s: ‘I only hope that others find some kinship here, or by understanding one story see that there are many more to be told.’

Maslen, like Stella Young (whose words are recollected in several essays), refuses to be ‘inspiration porn’, in which a person with disability is held up as inspirational solely or on the basis of their disability. In an incisive essay about the fetishisation of Frida Kahlo, Maslen argues that the physical body and the political body are enmeshed, as she critiques the cultural tendency to dissect and celebrate the parts that suit, and ignore those aspects that bring discomfort. Speaking of her own body, Maslen says: ‘I would hate to be remembered only for my face and not my body. […] It is not my body that is at fault, but society’s failure to deal with bodies like mine. I might be in pain, but I am whole. I refuse to have the difficult parts cropped out.’

Nothing is cropped out in this collection. The essays span memoir, pop culture and social commentary. They are at once deeply revealing of the person and the body behind the words, but also of the various ways in which society fails them. Maslen speaks as eloquently about SpongeBob SquarePants and finding community online as she does about the inherently ableist structures of aged care, the medical system and the economy. Show Me Where It Hurts rejects the sympathy of the reader as much as it evokes their empathy and understanding. Maslen’s breadth of knowledge and willingness to frame her arguments within her lived experience make her a compelling writer.


Bec Kavanagh works as a bookseller at Readings Kids.

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