From Susan Sontag to Kathy Acker and Clive James, there’s a rich history of authors writing about cancer. Elizabeth McCarthy joins Anne Boyer, Jo Lennan and Tracy Sorensen, each of whom has lived with cancer, to discuss how literature about the illness can be a source of comfort, insight and reckoning. Anne’s memoir The Undying examines what literature can do for the living and the dying; Jo documented her rare cancer diagnosis and recovery in The Saturday Paper; and Miles Franklin Award nominee Tracy will draw from her experience with the disease for her next novel.

Anne Boyer (International)

Anne Boyer

Anne Boyer is a poet and essayist. Her books include Garments Against Women, A Handbook of Disappointed Fate and The Undying, a memoir about cancer and care. Her honours include the 2018 Cy Twombly Award for Poetry from the Foundation for Contemporary Arts, a 2018 Whiting Award, the 2018–2019 Judith E. Wilson poetry fellowship at the University of Cambridge, and the 2016 CLMP Firecracker Award for Garments Against Women. Anne is an Assistant Professor of the Liberal Arts at the Kansas City Art Institute.

Jo Lennan (Australian)

Jo Lennan

Jo Lennan is the author of In The Time of Foxes, a collection of short stories to be released this May. Born in Wollongong, she studied in Sydney and Oxford. Jo has worked as a lawyer and writer, contributing to The Economist, 1843, Time Magazine and The Monthly. Her work has featured in the Best Australian Stories and Best Australian Essays anthologies.

Tracy Sorensen (Australian)

Tracy Sorensen

Tracy Sorensen is the Judy Harris Writer in Residence at the Charles Perkins Centre at Sydney University. She is the author of The Lucky Galah which was longlisted for the 2019 Miles Franklin award. In 2014, she blogged and crocheted her way through diagnosis and treatment for advanced primary peritoneal cancer. She finished that year with a bag of three-dimensional crocheted abdominal organs (and tumours) and a clean bill of health.

Elizabeth McCarthy (Australian)

Elizabeth McCarthy

Elizabeth McCarthy is a Melbourne-based radio producer and presenter who produces the Breakfast show at Australia’s biggest independent broadcaster, 3RRRFM. Her book reviews can currently be heard on Triple R and ABC Radio Melbourne, and she interviews authors at writers festivals and ideas events across Australia. From 2013–2017, she anchored Triple R’s flagship books and writing show, Multi-Storied. Elizabeth has produced and presented interviews and documentaries for ABC radio and television, and she has written about books and music for several publications.