Pink Ribbon Blues – The New York Times Book Review

The New York Times published a book review by Abigail Zuger, M.D., a board-certified internist and infectious disease specialist, who examines what she calls two “Breast Cancer Tales”–the “Inspirational” (Promise Me by Nancy Brinker) and the “Actual” (Pink Ribbon Blues by Gayle Sulik). The review will appear in print on October 26, 2010 on page D5 of the national edition.

“The inspirational and the actual, the wish-it-were and the how-it-is: don’t read one of these books without the other.”

In Promise Me the story of two sisters, Nancy Brinker and Susan Komen, provides much of the inspiration for what has become the mainstream pink ribbon culture.

“Shortly after Ms. Komen died of breast cancer in 1980, Ms. Brinker began a fund-raising effort that has grown into a multimillion-dollar operation, encompassing races all over the world, hundreds of corporate sponsorships and that inevitable pink ribbon.”..Ms. Brinker details every step she has taken in the intervening years to fulfill her promise to the dying Suzy to “make things better.” The book wanders through personal setbacks (like her own mastectomy for early-stage cancer) and corporate triumphs (like “Pinking the Pyramids” with Egypt’s first breast cancer race). She also tells the stories of many breast cancer she-ros, most of them young and very heroic…This is surely how illness should read: triumphant, assertive, can-do.”

In Pink Ribbon Blues “Ms. Sulik’s complicated uncertainties are a real downer by comparison.” If Promise Me is the inspirational, Pink Ribbon Blues is the actual. Zuger comments that Pink Ribbon Blues:

“Treads an interesting middle ground between the academic and the journalistic as [Sulik] analyzes giant hunks of information and opinion, and also interviews patients to illustrate her points…It is the social scientists who get to contemplate the full panorama of human reaction to disease by studying the fallout from a single one: all the shades of anguish and anger, the posturing, the politics and the cartloads of wishful thinking, all wrapped up in a big pink ribbon…The disease now constitutes such a huge profit center for so many industries…[and] the multiplying scientific uncertainties of the disease are often at odds with the consumer movement’s talking points.”

Read the full review here.

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“Pink Ribbon Blues”

Paperback includes a new Introduction on fundraising controversies and a color insert with images of, and reactions to, the pinking of breast cancer (2012).

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