Monday, July 7, 2008

"Women, Work, and Autoimmune Disease: Keep Working Girlfriend"

I just finished reading “Women, Work, and Autoimmune Disease: Keep Working Girlfriend” by Rosalind Joffe and Joan Friedlander. I read the book in about five days. I would have read it a lot faster if it hadn’t been for being bogged down with work stuff (pretty coincidental given the subject of the book). It was exactly what I needed. Finally, a book about chronic illness that isn’t wholly depressing!

I have to say that I found this book to be incredibly readable.

Maybe I’m over-thinking this a bit, but I really think that both Rosalind and Joan’s experience with their own autoimmune diseases really helped them to create a user-friendly “manual”. The book is on the smaller side, which I know at least for me, made it a lot easier to hold, without a lot of discomfort. The print is not super tiny and is easy to read. Props to them for knowing their audience!

I would recommend the first chapter on autoimmune diseases to anyone. It is an extremely succinct and understandable explanation of autoimmune diseases that I think would be helpful to anyone whose life has been touched by chronic illness.

I really liked how the authors talk about what to say and how to describe your illness when you disclose to people. I thought this was very helpful. It can be confusing enough trying to explain my symptoms to myself, let alone others.

When I did the interview for Rosalind’s site, Working With Chronic Illness, we had a pretty lengthy discussion on whether I wanted to disclose my identity or not. Rosalind made sure that the decision was mine and not one that I felt pressured into making. In the end, however, I decided that I would, at least at the present time, have more to lose by hiding in the shadows than by stepping into the light.

I’m glad that I read Rosalind and Joan’s book at this point in my life. It has really made me think about what I want to do with my life and if I’m in the best position right now based on my health issues.

They definitely give women who are attempting to balance their lives with work and chronic illness a lot to think about. Even if you’re are like me, and aren’t currently working in a full-time job, they Rosalind and Joan provide a lot of practical advice for women dealing with chronic illness – “the sisterhood.”


“It takes determination to look at decreasing possibilities and refuse to crumble. It takes courage to face the loss and of what you could do and see opportunity in its place” (50).

This, I think, can be incredibly difficult. Rosalind and Joan, however, provide some practical and useful advice about how best to discover what you can do, once you have developed the determination and courage to do it.

“When you live with a chronic illness, you often wonder how far you should push yourself. If you back away from the task, you worry that others will think you’re ‘wimping out.’ After, all[,] you should be able to do it. You could do it yesterday” (107).

I think we can all relate to this, even if it occurs outside the context of a job. And I think we all have attempted to push ourselves to hard, only to regret it a few hours, a day, or a few days, later.

“Some folks will remain right by your side, unfazed by the changes that your illness brings about. Others will run screaming from the room, spurred on by their own sets of reasons – not knowing what to say to you, not knowing how to deal with your new limitations […] fear that whatever you’ve got, it might be contagious” (181).

It’s odd, I think, that when you’re sick, your illness can become more about others than about you. What will so and so think of me? Will they act differently toward me? It’s hard because our reactions and the way we cope with our illnesses can be far different than the way others around us do. And this can cause the relationship to break down, if not fail, completely.


I think Rosalind and Joan do a really good job of trying to convince the reader of the positive aspects of autoimmune diseases. I think this book is great for anyone diagnosed, as two women that have been dealing with their illnesses for a long time wrote the book. They speak from experience…
(Joffe, Rosalind, and Joan Friedlander. Women Work and Autoimmune Disease: Keep Working Girlfriend. New York: Demos Health, 2008.)


  1. Wow, I find we have more in common the more that I read of your blog! I did a book review just 2 days ago on my post too, and you and I are both comforted by music. You put the lyrics on your blog, and I put the actual songs on a player on my blog.

  2. Leslie, thank you for such a thorough and detailed review of our book, and for your support.

    I applaud you, too, for the work you're doing on your blog. All the voices combined for possibility and action can only benefit all of us.

    Warm regards,