Book Reviews: Stricken: Voices from the Hidden Epidemic of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Edited by Peggy Munson

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Peggy Munson is a courageous and creative young woman who has CFIDS. She is an award-winning fiction writer, poet, and essayist whose work has appeared in such places as Literature and Medicine, the Spoon River Poetry Review, The San Francisco Bay Guardian, and in anthologies published by Faber and Faber, Cleis Press, and Creative Arts Book Company. Though she suffered from pre-onset symptoms, she became severely ill with CFIDS in 1992, following a sudden infection. Stricken is a compilation (edited by Ms. Munson) of many voices of CFIDS sufferers, talking in their own words about what it means to live with a debilitating disease. recommends Stricken to CFIDS patients, their families, friends, and caregivers, as it provides a uniquely compelling and absolutely genuine insight into the lives of people who struggle with this debilitating disease – and who manage to articulate their experiences through poetry, prose, and first-person narrative accounts. Following are a few glowing reviews of Stricken.

Other Reviews

"Much has been written about the physical impact of CFIDS, but far less about the destruction the illness wreaks upon the patients' lives. Stricken provides a raw look at the personal stories of pain, isolation and, ultimately, heroism of the millions worldwide who suffer from this complex illness."
–Vicki Carpman Walker, The CFIDS Association of America

"This book presents a courageous collection of captivating stories by 24 persons whose lives have been affected by chronic fatigue syndrome. [T]he stories provide a bold, articulate rebuttal to the many myths, criticisms, and skepticism surrounding this disease. In this collection, each chapter stands alone but overall it is an articulate anthology of the very human thoughts, feelings, experiences, and philosophies of these individuals whose lives have been affected by CFIDS. It is a book that should be read by both lay persons and medical practitioners to better understand what these individuals must endure and perhaps to appreciate all of the good things that we do take for granted."
–Laura Shane-McWhorter, PharmD, BCPS, FASCP, CDE, BC-ADM, Journal of Pain & Palliative Care Pharmacotherapy

"The aptly named Stricken is by turns a fact-filled, heartwrenching, and sometimes hopeful book. It presents a mosaic of first-person narratives (from children and adolescents, as well as adults; from the most profound cases to those bordering on remission), plus poetry and essays about how the illness has been perceived over past decades. Everyone who has been felled by this indisputably "hidden epidemic" will recognize his or her own experiences in these pages. The book is also surprisingly up-to-date, including references to the most recent studies and theories about this so-far mysterious, but all-too-often devastating disease.

The overall impact of Stricken is self-recognition for ill readers, both reassuring and unsettling. It can also serve as a powerful eye-opener for those – family, friends, doctors – who truly don't get it yet. I recommend Stricken as a must-read (take out your yellow highlighter, mark it up, and then pass it around to those who still want to understand, regardless of how long you've been trying to explain what is basically an inexplicable disease). While I think I've read every related book on the market, this is the single best book I've read that honestly and fully describes the CFIDS experience."
–Joan S. Livingston, Massachusetts CFIDS Association

"CFIDS is an illness of numerous puzzling and often unpredictable symptoms. It affects the psyche, soma and spirit, unraveling the fabric and quality of life. The voices of these sufferers with severe CFIDS are angry, pained, philosophical, needy and insistent. Emanating from the CFIDS underground, the authors display the otherwise invisible details and struggles of their lives. Their desperation presents a vivid contrast to the public personae adopted so that one can "pass" as well, to be socially acceptable in a world that frowns upon those who are severely but invisibly ill.

These courageous individuals relate stories that may seem exaggerated or even fabricated to the uninitiated, presenting a personal depth that is not conveyed through media or government accounts of CFIDS. It is indeed difficult for the healthy population to conceive that people with CFIDS may appear perfectly healthy, while often lacking the energy, ability and stamina to brush their teeth or bathe regularly, to read the morning newspaper or follow the plot of a TV show. Stricken provides a vehicle for the voices of patients in isolation – their struggles, despair, fears – and simple joys."
–Katrina Berne, Ph.D., Author of Running on Empty: The Complete Guide to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFIDS)

"This is not the kind of book an anesthesiologist will read spontaneously. However, anesthesiologists involved in pain management will see an interest in such a publication. This book is the testimony of numerous victims of the chronic fatigue immune dysfunction syndrome (CFIDS). . . . It is probably important to be sensitized to this problem which, hopefully, will be better understood in the future. This book certainly reaches this objective."
–Rene Martin, M.D., Canadian Journal of Anesthesia

"As expressed in editor Peggy Munson's introduction, the voices in Stricken have been compiled in an attempt to gain the understanding and support of a historically skeptical and unsympathetic world — a world demanding scientific proof for a disease that strikes each patient with a differing set of physical and psychological ailments. . . . As the narratives in Stricken unfold, readers experience countless cases in which CFIDS patients are shunned or ignored by doctors. In story after story, doctors take the symptoms of patients less seriously as their medical charts thicken from numerous CFIDS related complaints.

CFIDS patients frequently fail to gain the understanding of friends, family, and society. They repeatedly lose their jobs and medical benefits. While the authors paint an overwhelmingly grim picture of CFIDS, they also express occasional moments of hopefulness or spiritual clarity as a result of the disease. Even though many stories contain common threads and experiences, the authorial voices differ dramatically enough to remain consistently engaging. . . . Those who crave understanding will likely find themselves moved by the vivid stories of CFIDS sufferers."
–Anne Armstrong, Resident Librarian, University of Illinois at Chicago Library, in E-Streams: Electronic reviews of Science & Technology References covering Engineering, Agriculture, Medicine and Science.

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