Show Me Where It Hurts by Kylie Maslen
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.