FLAT is the breast cancer memoir you haven’t read — the compelling narrative of a young, queer woman pressed up against a life-threatening illness and cultural expectations of femininity.
Advance Praise for FLAT
Guthrie’s refreshing femininity doesn’t fit the familiar cancer narrative. Informed by both the nuances of queer identity and a women’s health journalist’s insider knowledge, this memoir is a welcome punk rock to breast cancer’s pink-washing. Unflinching, eloquent, and richly intimate, FLAT has shaken me, inspired me, prepared me for what could happen. —Angela Palm, author, Riverine: A Memoir from Anywhere but Here (Graywolf Press, 2016)
I thought about this book when I was in traffic, when I woke up in the morning, and in the middle of the night. This story is sometimes terrifying and always compelling. The best compliment a memoirist can receive is for a reader to say, ‘your book changed the way I view the world.’ FLAT did that for me, and it has the potential to do that for many people. —Krista Bremer, Managing Editor, The Sun
The biggest triumph of FLAT is how it carefully upends the breast cancer narrative in smart, surprising ways. FLAT is laced with sharp, funny, and thought-provoking insights on how living with breast cancer effects gender, identity, and human relationships. It’s a warm, moving, and fresh tale, told by a writer in the perfect position to share it. —Mike Scalise, author, The Brand New Catstrophe (Sarabande Books, 2017)
A veteran magazine writer, Catherine Guthrie shares in FLAT the poignant story she couldn’t tell in women’s magazines: not the pink ribbon story, but her personal, hard-fought, disorienting and reorienting story of living with breast cancer. Hers is a voice—candid both in fury and in love—you can trust. —Howard Axelrod, author, The Point of Vanishing: A Memoir of Two Years in Solitude (Beacon Press, 2015)
FLAT is a nuanced and original work that tackles every woman’s breast cancer fear head on. Guthrie is a women’s health journalist diagnosed with the very disease she has spent her career trying to elucidate and sidestep. What she does with her diagnosis cuts through our cultural assumptions and leaves me in awe of her courage. —Susan Gubar, New York Times “Living with Cancer” columnist and author Memoir of a Debulked Woman: Enduring Ovarian Cancer (W.W. Norton, 2012)
Everyone who goes through breast cancer treatment is brave in their way, but Guthrie challenges and overturns orthodoxies right and left. Her wise, clarion, un-saccharine voice is so, so refreshing. She is a muse for her generation and others to come. —Florence Williams, author, Breasts: A Natural and Unnatural History (W.W. Norton, 2012)
FLAT is a captivating story that will appeal to any intelligent reader forced to deal with the unexpected havoc wreaked by a breast cancer diagnosis. I highly recommend FLAT to any woman and her loved ones looking to move through the tumult of cancer. —Mary Jane Minkin, MD, clinical professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences at Yale University School of Medicine and author of five books on women’s reproductive health
As a women’s health journalist, my byline had graced every glossy from O Magazine to Time and I thought I’d covered breast cancer from every angle. But, after two bouts with the disease and an egregious medical error, I realized I knew nothing.
Before cancer, I was deeply at ease with my body and my queer sexuality. After cancer led me to choose a double mastectomy without reconstruction, I grappled with insecurities about my body and my femininity that were (in some ways) heightened by my same-sex marriage.
Had I been married to a man, bare breasts would no longer have been a feature of my daily landscape. I could have brushed my palms together, said, “Tsk-tsk, I’m done with those now.” But that was not my story. I was married to a woman and every night, as we climbed into bed, I came face to face with what I’d lost.
During treatment, everything that could go wrong did. My surgeon performed a double mastectomy but missed the cancerous lump. The most effective drug for preventing recurrence failed. My breast cancer returned. And my dermatologist, thinking the tumor was a mole, sliced it off in her office, an error that sent millions of breast cancer cells cascading into my body.
In retrospect, breast cancer shook my faith in my body, in my marriage, and in medicine. But, ultimately, mine is a story about finding the strength to forge an unconventional path — one of listening to my body — that, in hindsight, I’d been on all along.
Worth knowing is that I’ve shared portions of my story on The Oprah Winfrey Show and in Slate and O, The Oprah Magazine.