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What's Wrong? Personal Histories of Chronic Pain and Bad Medicine

What's Wrong?

Personal Histories of Chronic Pain and Bad Medicine

  • ISBN: 9781419747342
  • Publication Date: January 23, 2024


Price: $29.99

"The narratives of those marginalized by Western medicine—and how they've suffered from discriminatory medical systems—are told through watercolors and digital art in this touching collection." —New York Times

“A humane and gripping work that illuminates how (and why) our treatments of chronic illness fail, and a devastating portrait of the ways our society fails to protect the bodies of its most vulnerable members.” —Melissa Febos, author of Girlhood, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award

"Utterly riveting, deeply moving, absolutely molecule-rearranging exploration of pain—individual and collective—suffused with wit, wonder, and mourning; textured by compassion and curiosity, and vibrating with the humanity of its dynamic subjects. Williams' sharp, nimble, tender prose, and her searing art--humming with insight and imagination--speak to veins of human experience so difficult to articulate we often shy away from speaking them at all. But in these dark places, she finds vitality, collectivity, and hope. This book and its subjects will live inside me forever." —Leslie Jamison, author The Empathy Exams

What’s Wrong? is author, illustrator, and scientific researcher Erin Williams’s graphic exploration of how the American health-care system fails us. Focusing on four raw and complex firsthand accounts, plus Williams’s own story, this book examines the consequences of living with interconnected illnesses and conditions like:

  • immunodeficiency
  • cancer
  • endometriosis
  • alcoholism
  • severe depression
  • PTSD

Western medicine, which intends to cure illness and minimize pain, often causes more loss, abuse, and suffering for those Americans who don’t fit within the narrow definition of who the system was built to serve—cis, white, heterosexual men. The book explores the many ways in which those receiving medical care are often overlooked, unseen, and doubted by the very clinicians who are supposed to heal them. What’s Wrong? is also a beautiful celebration of nontraditional modes of healing, of how we become whole not because of health care but despite it.


"A passionate, memorably presented manifesto for healing."
—Kirkus Reviews, STARRED review

"Erin Williams will break your heart. In succinct, unflinching prose and images that range from closely observed to wildly surreal, What’s Wrong? tells the story of the broken American medical system through five intimate portraits. Williams lays bare the harrowing experiences of her subjects with empathy and grace in this deeply personal book about a universally important topic."
—Lauren Redniss, author of Radioactive: Marie & Pierre Curie, A Tale of Love and Fallout, finalist fo

"What’s Wrong? is a truly gorgeous piece of heartbreaking, hilarious, gut-wrenching graphic non-fiction. This is an extremely important book that I want everyone to read."
—MariNaomi, author and illustrator of I Thought You Loved Me

"Though these portraits can be harrowing, they offer solidarity and uplift to those who’ve felt marginalized by the medical system."
—Publisher's Weekly, STARRED review

"The raw accounts of these five tormented women reveal a disturbingly ineffective health system. Vital for health collections in public and university libraries."
—Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW

"With What’s Wrong, Erin Williams tackles some of the most challenging and important topics today: chronic pain, the people who endure it and the failures of our healthcare system to effectively and empathetically address them. Candid and compassionate, Williams shares her own experiences with chronic pain, Western medicine and holistic healing."
—Karla J. Strand, Ms. Magazine

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