The Life of an Activist

As October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, our latest Review of the Week explores the writings of Barbara Brenner, a pioneer in breast cancer advocacy.

So much to be done : the writings of breast cancer activist Barbara Brenner

Brenner, Barbara. ed. by Barbara Sjoholm Minnesota, 2016
281p afp, 9780816699438 $80.50, 9780816699445 $22.95, 9781452950341

breast cancer activist book cover

Barbara Brenner (1951–2013) led a remarkable life. Trained as an attorney and immersed in work for social justice, she was initially diagnosed with breast cancer in 1993, with a recurrence several years later. The initial diagnosis drove Brenner to work in breast cancer advocacy. She sought to build the discourse of a critique of “breast cancer culture,” along with Barbara Ehrenreich (an author and activist) and Samantha King (an author and a professor at Queen’s University, Canada), among others. This book posthumously presents Brenner’s writings as executive director of the nonprofit organization Breast Cancer Action, where she worked to expose the corporatization of breast cancer under the “pink ribbon” campaign and to restore self-efficacy and self-determination to women in their relation to breast cancer and their own bodies. Brenner’s writings are exemplary: clear, science-based, and deeply rooted in advocacy for herself—as a woman, a member of the LGBTQ community, and an individual with breast cancer and, later, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

Summing Up: Highly recommended. Lower- and upper-division undergraduates; general readers.
Reviewer: K. Liu, Desert Oasis Healthcare
Recommendation: Highly recommended
Interdisciplinary Subjects: Women’s & Gender Studies
Subject: Science & Technology – Health Sciences
Choice Issue: Dec 2016