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Published On Jun 03, 2015

Clinical Care

Living to Tell the Tale

In this video, Mass General physician Suzanne Koven discusses the power of personal stories inspired by illness.

Everyone loves a good story…especially if it’s true.  While most narratives follow a similar structure, with a beginning, a middle and an end, what distinguishes one from another tends to be a point of conflict or crisis—one of the trials and tribulations fundamental to the human experience. Will the narrator or protagonist be equal to the task? How will that person change? And what happens next?

A challenge conquered forms the backbone of some of the world’s most compelling stories. And some of our most trying moments come when we are ill.

“The arc of the memoir has to do with crisis met and overcome,” says Suzanne Koven, an internist and writer-in-residence at Massachusetts General Hospital. “Memoirs are generally stories of redemption.”

In a presentation she delivered on May 12th, 2015, Koven discusses stories of survival, examining the historical approaches, therapeutic potential and inherent challenges of writing a medical memoir.

“These are the people who turned the illness experience into memoir, who turned crisis into art.”

Watch her full lecture here.

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