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EMERGING STAR IN THE CONTEMPORARY LYRIC ESSAY: Over the past decade, the essay has been reinvented by writers such as Leslie Jamison, Rebecca Solnit, Maggie Nelson, Sarah Manguso, Eula Biss, and Claudia Rankine who combine memoir, pop culture, philosophy, science, history, and personal experience into intertextual, lyrical meditations on our most pressing social and political issues. Readers hungry for more will be delighted that an accomplished poet has now joined this canon with her first work of creative nonfiction.
INDISPENSABLE WORK ON PAIN: Migraine is the third most prevalent illness in the world. In the US, it affects 18% of women and 6% of men. Millions more suffer from some form of chronic pain. Diagnosis--particularly for women's pain--is infamously elusive, while treatment guidelines are both controversial and in a constant state of flux. Even as pain becomes a hot-button political issue and a major theme in the medical humanities, there still isn't a reliable system for describing it. Similar to the transformative approach Eula Biss took toward childhood vaccination in On Immunity and Leslie Jamison takes toward illness and addiction in her work, Olstein--with her poet's gift for language, scholar's curiosity about history and culture, and patient's perspective--is uniquely positioned to lead us toward a new way of discussing pain and empathizing with the afflicted.
FROM MFA TO MED SCHOOL: Olstein is an innovative stylist whose previous work has been widely adopted by professors of poetry and literature. Pain Studies, which delves into themes such as the silences surrounding women's health and doctor/patient relationships, should also become required reading in gender studies programs and medical humanities programs alike.