What we’re reading: Recommended Resources From Our Library

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From Barbara Bourrier-LaCroix, Clearinghouse Coordinator, with Danielle Allard, Siobhan Kari and Kathleen O’Grady


My Breasts, My Choice: Journeys Through Surgery
Barbara Brown, Maureen Aslin and Betsy Carey (Sumach Press, 2003)

In My Breasts, My Choice the authors deal with both the emotional and practical issues faced by individuals undergoing breast surgery. This inspiring and heartfelt read is divided into two parts. Part I consists of the images and stories of 10 people who have experienced breast reduction surgery, augmentation, breast cancer diagnostics, reconstructive and other surgical procedures. These moving stories are told by breast cancer survivors, transsexuals, and women and men choosing surgery for health and personal reasons. Part II consists of 10 articles that introduce breast surgery procedures in an accessible way, as well as explore alternative methods of self-care both before and after surgery. Throughout the book the authors encourage a body-positive, sex-positive and pro-choice perspective that celebrates and validates the women and men in these pages, and the decisions they have made.

The Rosemary Suite
Leslie Barnwell (Creekstone Press, 2002)

‘Suite: A succession of movements in dance style,’ so begins Barnwell’s tribute to her friend Rosemary who died of breast cancer at the age of 49. The Rosemary Suite is thus a death dance, told in a succession of journal entries, poems and beautiful blue wash sketches, as the author chronicles Rosemary’s progression -- painful, slow, and broken movement -- toward death, her last dance. Yet, The Rosemary Suite is also a dance of life, a celebration of Rosemary’s strength and resiliency, told in love and wonder for living.

Leslie Barnwell met Rosemary Hauswirth as part of her drawing group, where Rosemary was a model. For nearly 10 years Rosemary posed for Leslie as Leslie recorded in minimal lines, the fluid, raw and intense beauty of Rosemary’s form. The Rosemary Suite chronicles a decade of graphic intimacy between artist and model – as each makes herself vulnerable, model to the artist, artist to the blank page, toward creation in art, or, as Barnwell states, toward “the passion that fuels it all.”

Leslie and Rosemary continued their sketching sessions, even during the breast cancer and failed treatments, and so Barnwell is able to share with the reader Rosemary’s form in the vibrancy of life, the pain of sickness and dying, and even in the moments after death, as Leslie, in a final tribute to Rosemary, sketches her body in death. Interspersed between these incredibly moving portraits, Barnwell shares her personal thoughts on Rosemary’s life and dying, and their relationship as artist and model, and inevitably, as close friends.

So, while The Rosemary Suite is a touching tribute in poetry and art to Rosemary’s dance with death and with living, it also sketches the passion of creation that comes from the dance of friendship in art. This book is a wonder. Quite simply, magnificent.

Hormone Replacement Therapy Studies: A Reference Guide
Sara T. Goulden (McFarland, 2003)

Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) has been in and out of the news since July 2002, when the important Women’s Health Initiative study dropped its bombshell, announcing that one arm of the study would be halted prematurely because study findings demonstrated that long-term use of HRT had greater risks than benefits. Women who received combined hormone therapy (estrogen plus progestin) in the study demonstrated increased risks for heart attack, stroke and breast cancer, and other popular health claims of HRT, such as improved moods or cognitive capacity, were found to be unsupported. Yet confused media reports, deceptive advertisements and inadequate or biased information from medical practitioners continue to muddy the debate and obscure the important study findings -- making it difficult for women to evaluate the pros and cons of HRT for their personal situation.

Goulden now offers women a way out of the maze of (mis)information. In reader-friendly fashion, she reports the findings of both large and small clinical, case-control and cohort studies on HRT that have been peer-reviewed and published in medical and scientific journals. She summarizes major findings, defines terms and keeps statistics to a minimum. The most helpful section of this work, entitled, “Understanding Research Studies,” explains the various different types of studies, how to interpret the data and how to evaluate study findings.

"I Laughed So Hard I Peed My Pants!": A Woman's Essential Guide for Improved Bladder Control
Kelli Berzuk (Incontinence and Pelvic Pain Clinic, 2002)

Urinary incontinence (UI) is one of those prevalent conditions that people joke about, as in this book's title. But loss of bladder control isn't very funny. UI can cause women to avoid laughing for fear of losing control, or it can lead to chronic sleep deprivation from waking up hourly to pee. It can even confine women to their homes for fear of losing bladder control in public. "I Laughed So Hard I Peed My Pants!" is an easy to follow self-help guide to UI, written by Winnipeg physiotherapist Kelli Berzuk. With clear illustrations and straightforward prose, Berzuk explains the physiology of bladder control, and presents a step-by step approach to preventing and treating UI. While she stresses that prevention is important, there is plenty of hope for women who already suffer UI. For example, Berzuk explains that many women can significantly improve their bladder control by doing pelvic floor exercises and avoiding bladder irritants in their diet. Berzuk's book will be a useful guide for any women seeking to understand and deal with this issue.

Hysterectomy: Exploring Your Options
Edward E. Wallach and Esther Eisenberg (Johns Hopkins UP, 2003)

Hysterectomy has long been considered the first and only solution for treating women with certain gynaecological problems. Today, however, there may be other options available. Hysterectomy is a major surgical operation and a permanent procedure so it makes sense that women contemplating a hysterectomy have many questions – and they deserve clear answers. This book can help women considering hysterectomy with their decision-making process. The authors do not scare women out of hysterectomy -- if it is the best treatment for their condition -- nor do they sell hysterectomy as a cure-all for all gynaecological problems. Rather, they offer clear and complete information on all aspects of the procedure.

The book also provides descriptions of symptoms of gynaecological disorders that may require hysterectomy, discussions on the full range of diagnostic tests and treatments required, and details of the surgery itself. The authors also include discussions on sexual and reproductive issues post-hysterectomy, and hormone replacement therapy issues, which take into account findings from the Women’s Health Initiative study.

Immigrant and Refugee Women
Marika Morris and Jennifer Sinnott (Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement of Women, 2003)

Only four percent of Canadians are not immigrants or descendents of immigrants. Only Aboriginal peoples are native to this land, and have lived and died here for 10,000 years. Thirty percent of Canadian women have themselves immigrated here from somewhere else, and this population is growing four times faster than the population of Canadian-born women. These statistics, and plenty more, are found in this rich new publication from CRIAW. The authors of this fact sheet explore the persistent stereotypes of immigrant and refugee women, and examine how Canadian immigration policy can affect women differently. The fact sheet also assesses the health risks, violence issues and problems surrounding global trafficking facing immigrant and refugee women in Canada.

Immigrant and Refugee Women is available online at:
Or by contacting: (613) 563-0681.

Women’s Health, Women’s Rights: Perspectives on Global Health Issues
Vijay Agnew, ed. (Centre for Feminist Research, 2003)

The 9th International Women’s Health Conference was held in Toronto in August 2002, attended by over 400 delegates representing 75 countries. There were three conference themes: sexual and reproductive rights, violence against women and environmental health. For those who missed the conference, you can now experience some of its power through this collection of papers, all of which were presented at the conference itself. Some of the papers focus on case studies, such as the chapter on services provided to survivors of child sexual abuse. Others explore barriers to women’s reproductive rights, and still others discuss violence in refugee camps. Whether from Brazil, Palestine, Nigeria or Canada, the contributions are framed by the principle that equality (social, economic and political) is a necessary condition for improving women’s health.

Mother and Child Reunion: Preventing Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder By Promoting Women's Health
Nancy Poole (British Columbia Centre of Excellence for Women’s Health, 2003)

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) describes a range of physical and developmental problems affecting some children born to women who drink alcohol during pregnancy. Since FAS cannot be reversed, it is important to focus efforts on prevention. The usual approach has been to focus on a single determinant -- alcohol use -- and the impact this has on the child’s health. Yet, as the author demonstrates, this approach is too narrow and may actually be creating barriers for women who use substances during pregnancy and need help. This policy document describes current knowledge about FAS and prevention strategies, and outlines an alternative, multiple-determinants approach to FAS prevention that would be more effective for both mothers and babies, more humane and more cost-efficient.

Women’s Experiences with HIV/AIDS: Mending Fractured Selves
Desirée Ciambrone (The Haworth Press, 2003)

Women are becoming the fastest growing subgroup of the worldwide HIV-infected population. Women are biologically and socially more vulnerable to HIV infection than their male counterparts: male-to-female transmission is more efficient than female-to-male transmission. Women with HIV infection are also more likely to be victims of domestic violence and are more likely to lack financial support. Women’s lack of power and their dependence on men may make it extremely difficult or even impossible to negotiate safe sex via condom use. This book, based on interviews with 37 HIV positive women, explores the effects of HIV/AIDS on women’s daily lives. It looks at how women with HIV give meaning to their illness experience – how they talk about and describe the impact of the illness on their lives and the ways in which the disease is linked to broader social constructions and institutions. The author emphasizes the importance of social support, AIDS activism and support groups.

Booklet now available in English and French!

Sexuality During Pregnancy and After Childbirth
From the Féderation du Québec pour le planning des naissances and the Regroupement naissance-renaissance

This publication includes personal accounts and reviews of scientific literature concerning experiences with sexuality during pregnancy and after childbirth. The authors also describe the physical and emotional changes related to pregnancy and childbirth, and in particular, how these changes affect sexuality. The booklet provides information on sexual desire, sexual relations, contraception after childbirth, and also describes each trimester of pregnancy. It also includes a suggested reading list and groups who may provide additional information and assistance.

$3.00 each for 1-9 copies
$2.50 each for 10 or more copies.
Contact: info@fqpn.qc.ca or (514) 866-3721

Women’s Health Indicators in Canada
GPI Atlantic has released a new gender-based inventory of health indicators, “A Profile of Women’s Health Indicators in Canada” (2003), prepared by Ronald Colman for the Women’s Health Bureau, Health Canada. Now available online:
www.gpiatlantic.org/pdf/health/womens/whbreport.pdf Or contact: (902) 489-7007.

Women's Health Surveillance Report:
A Multi-dimensional Look at the Health of Canadian Women
Marie DesMeules and Donna Stewart, eds (Canadian Institute for Health Information, 2003)

Canadian women live longer than men, but that doesn’t mean they’re healthier. A new report shows that both younger and older women are actually at a higher risk than men for many serious health problems. This report, a collaborative project between the Canadian Population Health Initiative (CPHI), Health Canada and academic institutions across Canada, provides gender relevant analyses and considerations for health policy and program development, based on currently available national secondary health data. It focuses on "key" women's health issues and builds on the literature and presents data from national administrative and survey databases.

The report highlights gender differences and identifies disparities in the distribution of determinants of health, health behaviours, health outcomes, health care utilization as well as vulnerable subgroups of women. The report attempts to remedy the current lack of health information focussing on gender and women in particular, and provides a baseline of data from which a comprehensive, gender sensitive national women's health surveillance system can be built.

The Women’s Health Surveillance Report can be downloaded for free from the Canadian Institute for Health Information website at:
Or phone: (613) 241-7860 ext. 4088.