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Invisible: How Young Women with Serious Health Issues Navigate Work, Relationships, and the Pressure to Seem Just Fine

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An exploration of women navigating serious health issues at an age where they're expected to be healthy, dating, having careers and children. Miriam's doctor didn't believe she had breast cancer. She did. Sophie navigates being the only black scientist in her lab while studying the very disease, HIV, that she hides from her coworkers. For Victoria, coming out as a transgender An exploration of women navigating serious health issues at an age where they're expected to be healthy, dating, having careers and children. Miriam's doctor didn't believe she had breast cancer. She did. Sophie navigates being the only black scientist in her lab while studying the very disease, HIV, that she hides from her coworkers. For Victoria, coming out as a transgender woman was less difficult than coming out as bipolar. Author Michele Lent Hirsch knew she couldn't be the only woman who's faced serious health issues at a young age, as well as the resulting effects on her career, her relationships, and her sense of self. What she found while researching Invisible was a surprisingly large and overlooked population with important stories to tell. Though young women with serious illness tend to be seen as outliers, young female patients are in fact the primary demographic for many illnesses. They are also one of the most ignored groups in our medical system--a system where young women, especially women of color and trans women, are invisible. And because of expectations about gender and age, young women with health issues must often deal with bias in their careers and personal lives. Not only do they feel pressured to seem perfect and youthful, they also find themselves amid labyrinthine obstacles in a culture that has one narrow idea of womanhood. Lent Hirsch weaves her own harrowing experiences together with stories from other women, perspectives from sociologists on structural inequality, and insights from neuroscientists on misogyny in health research. She shows how health issues and disabilities amplify what women in general already confront: warped beauty standards, workplace sexism, worries about romantic partners, and mistrust of their own bodies. By shining a light on this hidden demographic, Lent Hirsch explores the challenges that all women face.


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An exploration of women navigating serious health issues at an age where they're expected to be healthy, dating, having careers and children. Miriam's doctor didn't believe she had breast cancer. She did. Sophie navigates being the only black scientist in her lab while studying the very disease, HIV, that she hides from her coworkers. For Victoria, coming out as a transgender An exploration of women navigating serious health issues at an age where they're expected to be healthy, dating, having careers and children. Miriam's doctor didn't believe she had breast cancer. She did. Sophie navigates being the only black scientist in her lab while studying the very disease, HIV, that she hides from her coworkers. For Victoria, coming out as a transgender woman was less difficult than coming out as bipolar. Author Michele Lent Hirsch knew she couldn't be the only woman who's faced serious health issues at a young age, as well as the resulting effects on her career, her relationships, and her sense of self. What she found while researching Invisible was a surprisingly large and overlooked population with important stories to tell. Though young women with serious illness tend to be seen as outliers, young female patients are in fact the primary demographic for many illnesses. They are also one of the most ignored groups in our medical system--a system where young women, especially women of color and trans women, are invisible. And because of expectations about gender and age, young women with health issues must often deal with bias in their careers and personal lives. Not only do they feel pressured to seem perfect and youthful, they also find themselves amid labyrinthine obstacles in a culture that has one narrow idea of womanhood. Lent Hirsch weaves her own harrowing experiences together with stories from other women, perspectives from sociologists on structural inequality, and insights from neuroscientists on misogyny in health research. She shows how health issues and disabilities amplify what women in general already confront: warped beauty standards, workplace sexism, worries about romantic partners, and mistrust of their own bodies. By shining a light on this hidden demographic, Lent Hirsch explores the challenges that all women face.

30 review for Invisible: How Young Women with Serious Health Issues Navigate Work, Relationships, and the Pressure to Seem Just Fine

  1. 4 out of 5

    Katharine

    "Research shows that the way other people view and respond to women with chronic illness has an important effect on their construction of self-identity." As a young woman living with a chronic illness, I jumped at the chance to read this. Living with cystic fibrosis has had an enormous impact on every aspect of my life, both in the tangible sense and in the way I view my life and plan for the future. It can be incredibly isolating to live a life that feels so different from your peers, and I'm a "Research shows that the way other people view and respond to women with chronic illness has an important effect on their construction of self-identity." As a young woman living with a chronic illness, I jumped at the chance to read this. Living with cystic fibrosis has had an enormous impact on every aspect of my life, both in the tangible sense and in the way I view my life and plan for the future. It can be incredibly isolating to live a life that feels so different from your peers, and I'm always searching for any kind of media in which I might be able to get a glimpse of myself. "On the one hand, you're trying to seem just dandy around your friends and show them the funny and carefree side of yourself that young people expect of you. On the other, being sick isn't all lightness and air, and sometimes, whether you're around your friends or strangers, you actually need your health issue to be more visible or taken seriously." This book definitely did that. Within the first few pages I was underlining passages, outwardly exclaiming, and reading paragraphs to my husband. The sections I found most relatable were "The Foggy Glass Ceiling and the Wall," about career and the workplace, and "It's Cool Guys, I'm Totally Fine," about friendships and the struggle to seem okay. I also appreciated how she tied in issues of race and gender into the discussion, noting that for WOC and trans women, the struggles and stigma of living with health issues is only magnified. My one gripe is that a large majority of the illnesses focused on in this book were more acute or had a sudden onset, rather than chronic illnesses diagnosed before adulthood. It also didn't tackle the subject of death and dying, something that is impossible to avoid when living with a serious health issue. Living with a condition that ebbs and flows but never goes away, or a disease with a death sentence, brings about a unique set of challenges that I would have liked to see explored more. However, I recognize that it's nearly impossible to represent all situations and perspectives. Hirsch did a great job of covering a wide variety of conversations and concerns relating to women and illness. Overall this book was a great conversation about what being a young woman with illness is like in our current society. It covered a wide range of topics (romantic relationships, work and career, friendships, physician relationships, etc.) with honesty and candor that's been hard to find. I would highly recommend this book for anyone going through their own health struggle, or who knows someone who is. Thank you to Beacon Press for providing this copy in exchange for my honest review.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jen

    Invisible covered many of the things that women with various illnesses experience, mostly relating to social stigma in the personal life, work life, and within the medical community. As a chronically ill person, I found some of this book to be relatable, but I was more than a little disappointed in the fact that there was a significant concentration on cancer and various acute onset illnesses, as opposed to those invisible or chronic illnesses that remain lifelong. The experiences are different, Invisible covered many of the things that women with various illnesses experience, mostly relating to social stigma in the personal life, work life, and within the medical community. As a chronically ill person, I found some of this book to be relatable, but I was more than a little disappointed in the fact that there was a significant concentration on cancer and various acute onset illnesses, as opposed to those invisible or chronic illnesses that remain lifelong. The experiences are different, and there isn't much insight provided on chronic issues and their long-term effects on mental health, relationships, and even getting through day to day life. Regardless, this was a wonderfully inclusive book, with discussions on race, sexual orientation, and gender identity. It was honest, and it lays the emotions behind illness bare. I would recommend it to anyone who is looking to understand what it is like to deal with significant health issues as a woman, whether family, friends, or medical professionals.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    I feel a little badly that I didn’t get more out of this book, because the author comes across as a really interesting and special person. However, as a young woman with chronic illness, I found reading a repetitive litany of all the horrible ways young women with illness are treated to be depressing, not helpful. For me, the book lacked a point. The only one I can think of is to hope that non-sick/able-bodied people read this book and gain some insight into ways they shouldn’t treat young women I feel a little badly that I didn’t get more out of this book, because the author comes across as a really interesting and special person. However, as a young woman with chronic illness, I found reading a repetitive litany of all the horrible ways young women with illness are treated to be depressing, not helpful. For me, the book lacked a point. The only one I can think of is to hope that non-sick/able-bodied people read this book and gain some insight into ways they shouldn’t treat young women and things they should not say.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Whitney

    I am very conflicted about this book, but none of that confliction has to do with the quality of the work. Both the research and the care put into the book are fantastic, I was highlighting quotes constantly because I didn't want to forgot how eloquently she put ideas I've had tumble around my head for ages. However, as the author mentioned in her author's note, this book cannot cover ever illness/disability/etc. I have four different chronic illnesses, none of which are life threatening, they ar I am very conflicted about this book, but none of that confliction has to do with the quality of the work. Both the research and the care put into the book are fantastic, I was highlighting quotes constantly because I didn't want to forgot how eloquently she put ideas I've had tumble around my head for ages. However, as the author mentioned in her author's note, this book cannot cover ever illness/disability/etc. I have four different chronic illnesses, none of which are life threatening, they are just ever present and fucking suck. I had a hard time relating to the themes of mortality and death. Which, I think, was kind of the point. My lack of experience with it doesn't make it invalid, and reading about mortality in one's twenties expanded how I thought about illness. But there was no flip side to the conversation, at least not one I picked up on. I am not confronted with my mortality, I am confronted with the notion that I had these forces controlling my life for years (even before I had a name for them), and the forces will be controlling my life for the years to come. The author cannot cover everything, like she said and like I would expect, but the feeling of being left out in a situation where I thought my experiences would be acknowledged still stings a bit. Yet that feeling is not what caused my conflicted feelings. Those occurred after reading the constant barrage of shitty things these women have had to put up with. (view spoiler)[What that awful man said to the author in the elevator, the bus driver not accommodating her, the woman on the bus yelling at her to stand up, women being told they were too broken to be loved, they couldn't marry anyone if they were sick, doctors completely dismissing symptoms, etc. (hide spoiler)] Not all of these things happened to one person, but reading the worst things that had happened to all of these women right in a row made me feel like shit. Maybe it's just a deep seeded fear of "this could be my future, these scenarios could happen to me at any moment." And even though I have HAD situations like this happen before, I worried all of these scenarios would happen to me at once. So that fear was one part, the other was just the constant rehashing of the worst experiences people have had regarding their illness. It is not the authors responsibility to make me feel hopeful. She has stories to tell, stories that are often ignored and deserve the platform she gave them. That still doesn't change the fact that reading this book made me feel deeply sad. Thus, the conflict. The book had wonderful research, including intersectionality of queer identity (which is my favorite), as well as beautifully written prose, yet, I felt serious dread when I thought about picking it back up to finish a chapter. This book was written for someone, and for those people I am sure this is a phenomenal read, but I am just not one of those someones.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Corvus

    When I began reading "Invisible," knowing little more about it than the title, I had certain expectations. I expected to be let down. As a trans and Queer disabled person, I am used to reading books about healthcare that do not include people like me and my friends. I figured I would get something out of it nonetheless and gave it a go. This is the first book of this kind that I have read- that was not specifically about LGBTQ populations- that didn't let me down. Hirsch worked very hard to incl When I began reading "Invisible," knowing little more about it than the title, I had certain expectations. I expected to be let down. As a trans and Queer disabled person, I am used to reading books about healthcare that do not include people like me and my friends. I figured I would get something out of it nonetheless and gave it a go. This is the first book of this kind that I have read- that was not specifically about LGBTQ populations- that didn't let me down. Hirsch worked very hard to include ALL women dealing with disability and illness: Queer women, trans women, women of color, poor women, scientist women, women doctors, young girls, teen girls, invisibly disabled women, wheelchair using women, and also the usual cisgender heterosexual white populations these books always include. I am a transmasculine person, am 35 years old, and have dealt with chronic illnesses from childhood. I have spent most of my medical interactions read as a girl and woman or as a testosterone-taking trans person who is too sick for surgeries and still has an "F" on their chart. As a result, I related to many things in this book, even though I am not necessarily the target demographic. Many things hit home so much that I actually had to take my time reading, despite wanting to devour the book quickly. The welcome validation reading an author who was a fellow Queer person, a fellow thyroid cancer survivor, a fellow chronic pain sufferer, whose experiences of surgeries, accessing care, fear, self-doubt, and general discrimination often mirrored mine so closely, was also very difficult at times. Now that you know where I was situated as a reader, enough about me. Hirsch is an excellent writer. Her book is part memoir, part interview, and part research project. It is well organized and accessible. She weaves her own story seamlessly in and out through the different topics navigated. The book does an excellent job centering it's general target- the experiences of younger women while navigating health struggles- and also manages to hit on a great many specific intersections with age and gender. These include practitioner racism as a barrier for Black and other people of color receiving healthcare, gendered romantic relationships and how they relate to someone receiving support, class struggles labeling working class people as less ill and therefore less in need of care, capitalism's relationship to poor womens healthcare, how being a trans woman intersects with receiving healthcare for non-trans related issues, the difficulty of people with rarer conditions or in isolated areas being able to leave abusive doctors, the struggles of women with chronic illness to access reproductive healthcare, the measure of sick women by their proximity to stereotypical beauty, and many others. Hirsch understands deeply something so many books like hers miss: that all women's experiences are NOT the same just because they are women, young, or sick. Race, class, visibility, gender expression, geographic location, and many other factors are always at play simultaneously. "Invisible" is written with great intentionality from beginning to end. It is clear that Hirsch gave a lot of thought to how to present issues, how to question people, and how to share stories while also giving people the freedom to have their own opinions and assessments about their personal experiences. The way Hirsch uses language to describe illness, disability, experiences in healthcare, and womens lives comes from a well informed and educated place of respect. There was obviously a great deal of research that went into writing this book. I probably added more books to my to-read list from the sources she listed than I have from any other book I have read. I do have two negative criticisms to make of the book. One is something that really disappointed me because of how amazingly inclusive and radical the rest of the book is. Near the end of the book, Hirsch interviews two animal researchers. They explain how their abuse and killing of female animals is "feminist." There is no way that forcing female animals to get addicted to drugs, then killing and disposing of them like trash, is feminist. The appropriate response to one oppression is never to deliberately harm someone with less power to get ahead. I found calling horrific mistreatment of female animals "feminism" to be incredibly insulting. Many feminist women have written excellent books about the connections between the abuse of nonhuman animals and the abuse of women so I will not reinvent the wheel by saying more here. The other criticism I have which I am far less perturbed by was that Hirsch repeatedly used the word "femme" as a stand-in for "feminine" often in reference to cis straight women. Femme is a LGBTQ identity specific to Queer femininity. Using it to describe straight cis women further erases Queer femmes and appropriates their identity. While I feel very negatively about the way animal testing was handled by this book, the section was very short and the rest of the book still far exceeded my expectations. As a result, it still gets 5 stars from me because nothing is perfect. I really hope that this book attracts a large number of women with disability, illness, and/or frequent healthcare interactions who may not have thought about all of these intersecting issues before. I hope that this book feels validating for others who are used to their experiences being absent in discussions of health and healthcare. I hope that it brings the personal validation that it brought to me while reading it while simultaneously connecting us to struggles we may not personally have or experience. Hirsch took on a monumental task in hitting on so many issues in such a small space. It's 240 pages but it felt like 100 because it flows very well. I look forward to new things coming from Hirsch in the future and I definitely recommend this book to anyone working in healthcare or related fields. It should be mandatory reading for doctors and nurses. Edited to add: In reading several other reviews on goodreads, I see something I missed which was how the book did not focus much on chronic, long-term conditions and didn't touch on death and dying enough for a book of this topic. I encourage folks to read those reviews as those are very good points.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Anastasia

    What an incredibly important topic. I am extremely glad that this was published and exists in the world. However, this book lacked the structure, arc, and overall cohesion I desired that would also serve to lend the topic a driving aim. I got to the end and felt like I read a long narrative list of terrible things that happen to young women in the healthcare system. I have a suspicion that the majority of people who snatch up this book will be young women with health issues and I felt like it wa What an incredibly important topic. I am extremely glad that this was published and exists in the world. However, this book lacked the structure, arc, and overall cohesion I desired that would also serve to lend the topic a driving aim. I got to the end and felt like I read a long narrative list of terrible things that happen to young women in the healthcare system. I have a suspicion that the majority of people who snatch up this book will be young women with health issues and I felt like it was instead speaking to people who don’t understand (especially all the grizzly details of assault and sexual assault).

  7. 4 out of 5

    Kazen

    Part memoir, part anecdote, and part research, Invisible does an amazing job looking at women society deems "too young" or "too pretty" to be sick. The good: - The book is own voices for both health issues and being queer, which is awesome in its own right, and her conscientious efforts mean... - ...it may be the most intersectional book I've ever read. Lent Hirsch mentions how each woman interviewed identifies and the range across race, sexuality, religion, and gender is amazing. She goes into h Part memoir, part anecdote, and part research, Invisible does an amazing job looking at women society deems "too young" or "too pretty" to be sick. The good: - The book is own voices for both health issues and being queer, which is awesome in its own right, and her conscientious efforts mean... - ...it may be the most intersectional book I've ever read. Lent Hirsch mentions how each woman interviewed identifies and the range across race, sexuality, religion, and gender is amazing. She goes into how each of these identities affect how a woman interacts with health care as well as friends, family, coworkers, and romantic partners. - This care is reflected in own voices reviews for Invisible. My favorite is by Corvus who identifies as Queer, trans, and disabled. They write, "This is the first book of this kind that I have read - that was not specifically about LGBTQ populations - that didn't let me down." Their whole review is wonderful, go check it out here. - There's a thoughtful discussion with several people about using the word "disability" in relation to themselves, and why they do or don't embrace it. There are many answers to this question and I like how so many different angles are covered. - Large sections of the text are straight from discussions the author had with women of all sorts. While reading I thought - if a straight cis white man wrote this book he would only grab the juiciest quotes and summarize the rest through the lens of his own experience. Lent Hirsch, however, has each amazing woman speak for herself and the book is stronger for it. - Even though my own experience as a patient is thankfully limited there are still parts that hit close to home. "The new pharmacist was great. He never commented on my looks or how my body made him feel. What a low bar I was holding him to: he was 'great' because he didn't harass me. The not-so-great: - Only one thing here - I would have liked the 30,000 foot level writing to be stronger. There are themes that could have been developed to make the book gel as a cohesive whole and their lack feels like a lost opportunity. Invisible is an insightful look at what women of all sorts go through while dealing with chronic illness. It's a must read if you have any tiny bit of interest in the subject - I loved it. Thanks to Beacon Press and Edelweiss for providing a review copy.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Kira Brighton

    I went into this expecting to find the stories of people like me. I got that, but I also learned that my life is even crappier than I already thought it was and I will never find love. So that's fun! In all seriousness, while this book may not be the most uplifting read for young women with health issues, I think it'll be educational for the rest of the population. It's a solidly written book, and I'm really glad that it exists. Now: Alternate Chapter Titles, by Me! 1) Men Are Trash (Except Simon) 2 I went into this expecting to find the stories of people like me. I got that, but I also learned that my life is even crappier than I already thought it was and I will never find love. So that's fun! In all seriousness, while this book may not be the most uplifting read for young women with health issues, I think it'll be educational for the rest of the population. It's a solidly written book, and I'm really glad that it exists. Now: Alternate Chapter Titles, by Me! 1) Men Are Trash (Except Simon) 2) Workplaces Are Obstacle Courses 3) Your Friends Live in a Different World 4) Doctors Mistreat You 5) Children Are Problematic 6) The Media Is Full of Inspiration Porn

  9. 4 out of 5

    Marika

    Author Michelle Hirsch writes with authority on the phenomenon of women with severe health issues who downplay the seriousness of their diseases. She provides readers with examples of women who mask or soften how they are really feeling, all in order to either keep their current jobs or to be taken seriously. A timely topic, and a book that women of all ages should put on their to-be read list. I read a review copy and was not compensated.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Sydney

    **3.5 stars** I have numerous health struggles, so this book was extremely relatable. I found myself vigorously nodding and furiously highlighting as I read. Other reviewers have commented that they felt this book didn't give much hope and was just "a long list of shitty things that happened to them" but for me it was validating to hear others' similar experiences and made me feel I wasn't alone. I also loved how inclusive this was. The author really made an effort to include experiences across a **3.5 stars** I have numerous health struggles, so this book was extremely relatable. I found myself vigorously nodding and furiously highlighting as I read. Other reviewers have commented that they felt this book didn't give much hope and was just "a long list of shitty things that happened to them" but for me it was validating to hear others' similar experiences and made me feel I wasn't alone. I also loved how inclusive this was. The author really made an effort to include experiences across a wide spectrum of (racial, sexual, gender) identities, which a lot of books fail to do. I docked a few stars not for the lack of relatability or worthiness of topic, but just because I felt some sections were really strong and others needed to be fleshed out a bit more. I think maybe she tried to do too much in one thing--any of these sections could make its own book! I also thought the conclusion and wrap-up was a bit abrupt. I know a book can't do everything, and maybe the point of this was simply to share these women's stories, but I would have liked more reflection on a path forward or solutions, maybe even resources that are trying to help fix these issues?

  11. 4 out of 5

    Kristy

    I received this book through a Goodreads giveaway. There was a lot of content in this book that really spoke to me. I was diagnosed with transverse myelitis a few years ago just after turning 30, which left me with mobility issues, a compromised immune system, and a whole host of other medical issues that have severely affected my everyday life. I don't consider myself "disabled," but I have had to adjust to life with a number of disabilities. I especially connected with the chapter about career c I received this book through a Goodreads giveaway. There was a lot of content in this book that really spoke to me. I was diagnosed with transverse myelitis a few years ago just after turning 30, which left me with mobility issues, a compromised immune system, and a whole host of other medical issues that have severely affected my everyday life. I don't consider myself "disabled," but I have had to adjust to life with a number of disabilities. I especially connected with the chapter about career challenges that can arise from having a disability. My condition basically turned my work life upside down. People treated me much differently when I returned to work, whether intentionally or subconsciously. Add to that the toll that my illness and general life upheaval took on my mental health, and I started having performance issues that cost me my job. Trying to find a new job with a disability is no picnic either. You might be legally protected from discrimination, but that doesn't necessarily help you get a job in the first place. I appreciate reading about people who have had similar struggles as me. In short, this was a book I needed to read. Sometimes you just want to know you're not alone in your challenges, and this book definitely accomplished that goal.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Bogi Takács

    This book took me over a month to finish, but it is due back to the library, so. Invisible is a thorough nonfiction treatment of the topic described in its subtitle, and it mostly involves terrible ableism. So both rather dispiriting to read and a typical found-myself-nodding kind of book. It was nice to see the author explicitly trying to make the book as intersectional and trans-inclusive as possible. But of course this added even more depictions of discrimination. Be prepared. (I wish there was This book took me over a month to finish, but it is due back to the library, so. Invisible is a thorough nonfiction treatment of the topic described in its subtitle, and it mostly involves terrible ableism. So both rather dispiriting to read and a typical found-myself-nodding kind of book. It was nice to see the author explicitly trying to make the book as intersectional and trans-inclusive as possible. But of course this added even more depictions of discrimination. Be prepared. (I wish there was a bit more about Indigenous people; I liked that wrt the discussions about Black people, the author went and consulted a Black scholar in addition to including Black interviewees.) I don't think I'm going to review it at length, but I'm glad this book exists. I would especially recommend it to non-disabled people, because it is conversational, light on theory, but shares a lot of detailed lived experience. I think it could really help people gain awareness in a way that is much deeper than the usual 101-level articles. Source of the book: Lawrence Public Library

  13. 5 out of 5

    Lauren

    Yikes. This book did not live up to its description at all. I felt like we got only a little bit about women with serious health issues, and lots about mistreatment of minorities, able-bodied women, and trans people. There was almost a whole chapter on docs who sexually abuse and other meanderings. All worthy topics, but not the reason I picked up this book. Stars are for the sections that actually fit the summary. In addition, this author was wildly inconsistent and contradictory. She’s clearly Yikes. This book did not live up to its description at all. I felt like we got only a little bit about women with serious health issues, and lots about mistreatment of minorities, able-bodied women, and trans people. There was almost a whole chapter on docs who sexually abuse and other meanderings. All worthy topics, but not the reason I picked up this book. Stars are for the sections that actually fit the summary. In addition, this author was wildly inconsistent and contradictory. She’s clearly working through a lifetime of her own issues, and good for her, but this was not meant to be a memoir. Kind of felt like one big, passionate rant against the medical industry that at times hit good points. I wanted to read the book this title promised. .

  14. 4 out of 5

    Bethany Michelle Planton

    Invisible shows through interviews, studies, and the author's personal story that young women with series health issues have to navigate a world that is biased against them. I learned a lot from this book. It is a good conversation starter, but it cannot be the end. Invisible shows through interviews, studies, and the author's personal story that young women with series health issues have to navigate a world that is biased against them. I learned a lot from this book. It is a good conversation starter, but it cannot be the end.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Tory Cross

    I loved everything about this. What an exquisite work on the realities of being young and a woman and sick. It is incredible to feel seen.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Molly T

    Invisible combines memoir, ethnography, and social science research to address some of the unique challenges faced by young women with serious health issues. Lent Hirsch uses her own experience with multiple illnesses to open a dialogue about how many of the ‘typical’ aspects of being a young woman, such as establishing and maintaining social relationships, navigating the workplace, and planning for a future, are often complicated or magnified by concurrent life-altering health issues. Importantl Invisible combines memoir, ethnography, and social science research to address some of the unique challenges faced by young women with serious health issues. Lent Hirsch uses her own experience with multiple illnesses to open a dialogue about how many of the ‘typical’ aspects of being a young woman, such as establishing and maintaining social relationships, navigating the workplace, and planning for a future, are often complicated or magnified by concurrent life-altering health issues. Importantly, this is not Lent Hirsch’s story alone. While she uses her experience to spark this much-needed conversation, her interviews with a group of women with serious health issues are the heart of this book. The power of Lent Hirsch’s interviews with these women is grounded in the fact that they are diverse in every way: racially, culturally, socioeconomically, professionally, sexually, and, perhaps most importantly, diagnostically. Their stories do not represent a singular experience with illness, but instead illustrate just a portion of the many nuances that exist within every individual’s experience with serious health issues. From HIV to cancer to autoimmune diseases and beyond, the health issues represented in this book rank among the most expansive and inclusive I’ve seen, and provide the reader with insight into how different diagnoses can affect an individual. I asked Beacon Press for a review copy of this book because, as someone who has lived with chronic illness for most of my teenage years and all of my adulthood, I have been on a seemingly endless search for nonfiction works about people like me. There are plenty of books out there about spirituality and illness, diet and illness, yoga and illness, etc. And there are many books about specific illnesses. However, I’ve come across very few books that look specifically at the experiences of my own cohort. So, when I discovered that this book would soon be out in the world, I was thrilled. Multiple parts of Lent Hirsch’s writing hit home for me. There is a certain type of relief that comes from discovering that other people share your experiences, thoughts, and fears. This is especially true when it comes to chronic illness, which can often feel isolating. One thing that did not resonate with me was the seriousness of the illnesses discussed in the narratives. In a way, this is probably a good thing. I am privileged to be ‘healthier’ than many of the individuals depicted in this book. However, the invisible line drawn between ‘serious’ health issues and other health issues felt almost exclusionary and kept me from fully connecting with the narratives. I therefore can’t predict how relatable this book will be for someone without health issues or whose health issues don’t align with those represented here. Bottom line is that Invisible is a good book with a niche audience. Would I recommend it? Definitely, but with the caveat that you might find it to be more of an educational experience than a relatable one. I am so excited that this book is officially out in the world and am thrilled to know that this is just one of many upcoming books through which young people like Lent Hirsch and her interviewees will share their experiences living with health issues.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Charlott

    "Invisible: How Young Women with Serious Health Issues Navigate Work, Relationships, and the Pressure to Seem Just Fine" - What a mouthful of a title, but it also captures quite well what Michele Lent Hirsch tries to tackle in 230 pages. She looks at a quite specific demographic: women, who have mostly "invisible" illnesses and (for the most part) only fell ill as (young) adults. The book is divided into six parts looking into (romantic and sexual) relationships, the workplace, friendships/ soci "Invisible: How Young Women with Serious Health Issues Navigate Work, Relationships, and the Pressure to Seem Just Fine" - What a mouthful of a title, but it also captures quite well what Michele Lent Hirsch tries to tackle in 230 pages. She looks at a quite specific demographic: women, who have mostly "invisible" illnesses and (for the most part) only fell ill as (young) adults. The book is divided into six parts looking into (romantic and sexual) relationships, the workplace, friendships/ social life, the medical system, parenthood, and media. Hirsch writes about her own experiences, but goes in her explorations far beyond these using a lot of interviews, other literature and studies. She attempts - very successfully - to reflect a vast array of experiences in regards to class, sexuality, race etc. _ A few stories which stuck: Hirsch interviewed a young trans woman of colour about friendship. The woman said she was afraid of not always being able to be a good friend (for example being an attentive listener), because she associates these traits (bad listener etc) with the men she witnessed growing up and feared her friends might see her as masculine. Another interviewee works in a lab studying HIV. She is the only Black woman on the job, which is already challenging enough but she also has to navigate the ways her co-workers speak about HIV+ people while being HIV+ herself. Also women, who date men and are afraid of being left because they are ill: this not an unlikely scenario. Hirsch looks into statistics (recognizing there is only data on hetero relationships), dives into the reasons and looks at queer relationships via interviews as well. _ Hirsch's writing is great and I would have read hundreds of pages more (but I am also happy this rather slim volume exists to put into the hands of everyone). One of the few things I found lacking was how Hirsch does not really go into how fatness is such a defining factor how one is treated at the doctor's. This is strange for in general she is very good at pointing out how different women are affected differently. But all in all, I could relate a lot, but also learned new things and gained new insights.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Li Sian

    I learnt a LOT from this book about how young women are affected by serious/chronic illnesses and navigate not just physical constraints, but social ones - in various aspects of their lives. Really well-thought out, researched, and nuanced book. Hirsch made an effort to interview young women and non-binary people from different walks of life, and it's clear that people who are, say, trans or POC generally have an even harder time than a cis white woman would. I also appreciated Hirsch's effort t I learnt a LOT from this book about how young women are affected by serious/chronic illnesses and navigate not just physical constraints, but social ones - in various aspects of their lives. Really well-thought out, researched, and nuanced book. Hirsch made an effort to interview young women and non-binary people from different walks of life, and it's clear that people who are, say, trans or POC generally have an even harder time than a cis white woman would. I also appreciated Hirsch's effort to ground her book in a feminist framework, which made the issues under discussion and her analysis richer and smarter. For example, Hirsch discusses the bias in science toward viewing male human subjects as 'neutral' while also assuming that women's bodies can't differ that much, and how that leads to big problems in diagnosing women with substance abuse issues. Other points in the book that really stood out for me: (1) the way men treat (and generally walk away) from women they're dating who get diagnosed with serious health issues; (2) abuse in the medical setting, especially of black women who face much higher rates of physical/sexual assault in addition to not being given the pain medication they require (I'd known about that, but I hadn't known this was due to the tendency to view black women as requiring pain medication to feed substance abuse habits. Seriously!!! this made my blood boil). The book was hard reading, if only because the content was so heavy and... well... sad that I couldn't read it in a single setting. Otherwise, I wouldn't say this was a difficult TO read. Hirsch writes clearly and informatively, and the personal stories of the people she speaks to illuminate the points she's trying to make. I only have two criticisms to make: first, Hirsch could have delved more into the literature there is on disability and feminism. Second, there are some odd uses of collective nouns ('a fistful of issues', 'shreds of autonomy') that felt rather stilted. Aside from that, I'd still say this was definitely worth a read.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Ameema Saeed

    It’s been a long time since a book spoke to me as deeply and personally as Michele Lent Hirsch’s “Invisible: How Young Women With Serious Health Issues Navigate Work, Relationships, and the Pressure to Seem Just Fine”. This book is an exploration of what it’s like to be a young woman living with a disability or a chronic illness. Full of stories from young women who have lived with, struggles with, and navigated their pain, their illness, and their disability, this book touched on being a young It’s been a long time since a book spoke to me as deeply and personally as Michele Lent Hirsch’s “Invisible: How Young Women With Serious Health Issues Navigate Work, Relationships, and the Pressure to Seem Just Fine”. This book is an exploration of what it’s like to be a young woman living with a disability or a chronic illness. Full of stories from young women who have lived with, struggles with, and navigated their pain, their illness, and their disability, this book touched on being a young Sick woman in ways that nothing I’d ever read before had. Full of stories that are part heartbreaking, part heartwarming, reading like a partial memoir of the author’s own experiences, this book contained relatable and beautiful words by other young women, as well as practical and pragmatic advice on how to navigate romantic relationships, HR, and nosy strangers. I love this book so much, that I found myself highlighting and underlining whole passages. I found myself crying on the train, blinking away tears so I could continue reading. I found myself bringing this book up in conversation - quoting it, citing it, recommending it. I’ve taken to sharing this book with some of my closest friends who have also lived with chronic pain or illness, and who have also been able to connect so deeply with it. This book made me feel so SEEN in a way that is so rare for me - a fat young woman of colour, with a chronic illness. A must read.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Joy Messinger

    [5 stars] Part memoir and part scientific review, Invisible delves into the biases, prejudice, stigma, and shame surrounding chronic illness, mental health, and disability for young cisgender and transgender women. As I read the chronicle of other people's experiences seeking care in Western medical settings, I found myself seeing the same words that doctors had repeated to me throughout the past five years as doctors have struggled to diagnose my constellations of orthopedic, neurological, rhem [5 stars] Part memoir and part scientific review, Invisible delves into the biases, prejudice, stigma, and shame surrounding chronic illness, mental health, and disability for young cisgender and transgender women. As I read the chronicle of other people's experiences seeking care in Western medical settings, I found myself seeing the same words that doctors had repeated to me throughout the past five years as doctors have struggled to diagnose my constellations of orthopedic, neurological, rhematological, endocrinological, and psychological symptoms. It made me sad to know that others shared my experiences while also validating that I wasn't alone and also didn't have faulty intuition with regards to my health and my body. Lent Hirsch definitely did her research but I didn't find her writing dense or overly academic. She explored some of the intersections of disability and illness alongside gender, race, and geography, doing a somewhat decent job while also recognizing her own privilege in seeking care, though I would've liked to see a deeper class analysis, especially when folks lack insurance, and the inclusion of a disability justice frame alongside chronic illness. I'd recommend this book for my fellow sick and disabled folks, as well as those who work in health or healing settings to learn more about chronic illness and/or navigate implicit biases.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Katie

    I received an advance copy of this book from a Goodreads giveaway. This book was well-written, and provides insight from a broad spectrum of women with various health histories on their personal experiences with serious illnesses. I thought the writing was smart and the author shared her own experiences with dealing with health issues. This book recognizes the challenges that women face in their personal and professional lives due to serious illnesses, many of which are not visible and so theref I received an advance copy of this book from a Goodreads giveaway. This book was well-written, and provides insight from a broad spectrum of women with various health histories on their personal experiences with serious illnesses. I thought the writing was smart and the author shared her own experiences with dealing with health issues. This book recognizes the challenges that women face in their personal and professional lives due to serious illnesses, many of which are not visible and so therefore sometimes questioned by employers, strangers, and medical professionals. The only thing I did not like about this book was when the author veered from the topic several times to write one-sentence uninformed allegations regarding police-involved shootings and race. Having worked in the law enforcement field for 17 years, I found the statements to be offensive. They were not supported by research as the rest of the author's work was. As a reader, it was unclear to me why these statements were included in the book.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Corrie

    This was SO GOOD, and it should be required reading for everyone. The best read of 2018 for me so far. Do not judge a book by its weirdly juvenile cover (am I the only one who really hated this jacket design?). Oh I wish I had had this research handy when I was dealing with disability at 21. From broken friendships, to pushing physical limitations and regretting it later, to feeling on the outside because only much older women could offer true emotional support, to many other things, so many mome This was SO GOOD, and it should be required reading for everyone. The best read of 2018 for me so far. Do not judge a book by its weirdly juvenile cover (am I the only one who really hated this jacket design?). Oh I wish I had had this research handy when I was dealing with disability at 21. From broken friendships, to pushing physical limitations and regretting it later, to feeling on the outside because only much older women could offer true emotional support, to many other things, so many moments rang true. My only qualm with Hirsch's writing style was the foray into academic-y organization every now and then (by which I mean tangents, tangents, tangents, where is this going? oh ok, you're back to the main thesis now). Otherwise, the writing style is everything I want my own writing to be: nuanced, intersectional, sophisticated, balanced, human, and intelligent yet accessible. I'm excited to see more from this author in the future. Oh, and I want to see "deathyness" in Merriam Webster one day...

  23. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie

    This book was perfect for me right now. It was so validating to see my experience echoed in that of others. But that’s not all! This book also opened my eyes to experiences unlike my own in a way that stretched my mind and my compassion. If you are a woman with health issues (large or small) read this book. If you know a woman with health issues read this book. If you are a healthcare provider or researcher read this book. If you are a feminist read this book. If you are interested in the inters This book was perfect for me right now. It was so validating to see my experience echoed in that of others. But that’s not all! This book also opened my eyes to experiences unlike my own in a way that stretched my mind and my compassion. If you are a woman with health issues (large or small) read this book. If you know a woman with health issues read this book. If you are a healthcare provider or researcher read this book. If you are a feminist read this book. If you are interested in the intersection of healthcare and gender, LGBTQ+, or race read this book. PS I know that nonfiction isn’t everyone’s favorite. I know that my interest level in the topic was high and that probably colored my perspective. I also feel like the language was relatable, not dry, and when a person pops up later one she always reminds you who they were—all things that help nonfiction go down easier.

  24. 4 out of 5

    marimocheeks

    The most glaring flaw of Invisible is its failure to realize how fat discrimination impacts the healthcare and societal treatment of young women. In the final chapter, fat is euphemistically referred to but ultimately packaged under societal pressure to conform to beauty standards. The author makes no move to analyze how her thinness has afforded her and her interviewees better treatment than if they'd been larger: how fat is often pathologized as its own "chronic illness" and used as an excuse The most glaring flaw of Invisible is its failure to realize how fat discrimination impacts the healthcare and societal treatment of young women. In the final chapter, fat is euphemistically referred to but ultimately packaged under societal pressure to conform to beauty standards. The author makes no move to analyze how her thinness has afforded her and her interviewees better treatment than if they'd been larger: how fat is often pathologized as its own "chronic illness" and used as an excuse (much like youth!) to ignore more fatal conditions until patients finally succumb. Ironically, the author recounts a time when someone was informed of her conditions and responded with, "Well, at least you're thin!" If only she'd taken the poorly thought-out compliment to heart and reflected upon what that truly meant for her life and her treatment. It could've transformed the book into something even more insightful and mindful of many facets of identity.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Mariah

    This was very, very good. I identified with the chapters on work, friendships, and trying to figure out if a small human fits into my unpredictable life the most. As others have said, Invisible doesn’t discuss long-term chronic illnesses as much, and I wish it did- having cystic fibrosis hasn’t shifted my perspective. It’s formed it. I’ve never known life without it, and so I don’t miss or grieve something I used to know. I read the line “Being sick involves a recognition of the worlds of pain a This was very, very good. I identified with the chapters on work, friendships, and trying to figure out if a small human fits into my unpredictable life the most. As others have said, Invisible doesn’t discuss long-term chronic illnesses as much, and I wish it did- having cystic fibrosis hasn’t shifted my perspective. It’s formed it. I’ve never known life without it, and so I don’t miss or grieve something I used to know. I read the line “Being sick involves a recognition of the worlds of pain and suffering, possibly even if death, which are normally only seen as distant possibilities or the plight of others” twice, three, four times. As I thought about work tomorrow, I challenged my own perceptions about not doing enough and having to show up and being ashamed I can’t do enough/more/it all. I can tell I’ll be thinking about this book for a long time.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Anna

    I related to so much in this and want to shove it into the hands of everyone I meet. Being young and sick and a woman has so many challenges people don't even consider. This book broke it down by interviewing women (cis and trans) of all backgrounds and made me feel SEEN and connected to others out there dealing with the same shit. I also appreciated how inclusive this is. It talks about the specific challenges women with illnesses face if they are queer or poor or part of any other marginalized I related to so much in this and want to shove it into the hands of everyone I meet. Being young and sick and a woman has so many challenges people don't even consider. This book broke it down by interviewing women (cis and trans) of all backgrounds and made me feel SEEN and connected to others out there dealing with the same shit. I also appreciated how inclusive this is. It talks about the specific challenges women with illnesses face if they are queer or poor or part of any other marginalized group. It's so good to have a true exploration of the many layers of issues there are when people think you're "too young" to be sick.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Samantha

    I received a copy of this book through the Goodreads giveaway program. I can fully relate to this book as I am one of these young women. I am a month away from my 34th birthday and have been dealing with cerebral palsy and its various effects all my life. It's definitely been a struggle. I am relieved to see that I am not alone because it has been very lonely at times when people don't take your issues as seriously as they should be taken. A worthwhile read. I received a copy of this book through the Goodreads giveaway program. I can fully relate to this book as I am one of these young women. I am a month away from my 34th birthday and have been dealing with cerebral palsy and its various effects all my life. It's definitely been a struggle. I am relieved to see that I am not alone because it has been very lonely at times when people don't take your issues as seriously as they should be taken. A worthwhile read.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    I jumped at a chance to read this as soon as I heard about it. It was a solid read. The author highlights a lot of good points and her research is thorough. The book is incredibly inter-sectional and covers a wide range of topics that people with serious health issues face, from dating, work, friendships, healthcare, children and more. Hirsch does an excellent job of weaving her own experiences in with her interviewees and arguing her points. I highly recommend this book.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Melissa

    The most intersectional book I’ve ever read. The only thing I can say is that the title speaks for itself and this should be required reading for everyone. (Perhaps it needed more summation or conclusion to tie it all together at the end. Or not, bc maybe we deserve to finish this and sit there with our thoughts.)

  30. 5 out of 5

    Lindsey Myers

    As a woman in her 30s, with serious health issues and disorders, I am SO THANKFUL for the time, energy and effort the author put into this encouraging, interesting and enlightening book. It is easy to feel alone at times with the daily task of managing my body and mind, and the quirks and issues they have, but the stories in this title helped ease that loneliness and give me hope.

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