Wet Earth and Dreams

A Narrative of Grief and Recovery

Wet Earth and Dreams

Book Pages: 136 Illustrations: Published: July 1998

Author: Jane Lazarre

Gender and Sexuality > Feminism and Women’s Studies, General Interest > Biography, Letters, Memoirs, Religious Studies

“In the spring of 1995, the condition I seem to have been waiting for all my life finally struck me.” So begins Jane Lazarre’s account of her transforming battle with breast cancer. Following in the tradition of her critically acclaimed literary memoirs The Mother Knot and Beyond the Whiteness of Whiteness: Memoir of a White Mother of Black Sons, Lazarre brilliantly interweaves her experience of life-threatening illness with other stories of recent and past losses—most notably, that of her mother to breast cancer when Jane was a small child. From these memories and experiences, Lazarre crafts a story that is at once intensely intimate and universally healing.

As she contends with the pain and many indignities of her treatment for cancer, Lazarre realizes that successful medical treatment will only be part of her healing process. Her own illness becomes the vehicle for coming to terms with key moments of loss and grief—the death of a beloved therapist from breast cancer, her brother-in-law’s death from AIDS, a traumatic disappointment in her work life, and the unresolved pain of being a motherless child. The gift of Lazarre’s writing is her ability to transform her narratives of grief and loss into a story whose power to heal lies in its ability to penetrate the unconscious and give voice to the elusive truths hidden there. Through her writing, Lazarre is able to embrace grief—even her own inarticulate grief as a child—and find her way through the story to a restored sense of wholeness.

In Wet Earth and Dreams Jane Lazarre once again proves herself to be both companion and guide through some of the most difficult challenges life has to offer. As always, she draws strength not only from sustaining friendship and love, but also from her own faith in the power of storytelling to make bearable the seemingly unbearable. Lazarre’s bravely and beautifully written account of grief, illness, and death is at the last a celebration of the redemptive possibilities of the creative spirit.


“[Lazarre’s] stream-of-consciousness narrative rescues the book from being just another story of illness. Although she deals with disease and sadness, she achieves the overall effect of healing, coming to terms with past losses and reclaiming wholeness. This book will appeal to women, especially those who have had experience with cancer.” — , Library Journal

“Lazarre is an intense writer, aware of her emotional intensity and of her inner dichotomy. . . .” — , Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease

“This book is written with tremendous sensitivity. . . . [T]he author was very brave in writing it. . . . You get the feeling she has kept nothing back from the reader.” — , SHARE (Self-help for Women with Breast or Ovarian Cancer)

“Throughout the memoir, Lazarre returns to the most weighty issues of her adult life: psychic and physical separation from her mother; her intense, anxious attachment to her two sons; and her struggle to write. On each return, she learns more about the causes of her overwhelming fears, and eventually makes discoveries that free her of the leveling depression that had afflicted her before her diagnosis. . . . Wet Earth and Dreams’ most memorable quality [is] Lazarre’s refusal to accept stoicism as the ideal emotion for cancer patients. She dares to define a patient’s bravery as the willingness to examine fear without banishing it.” — Angela Starita, Mamm

Wet Earth and Dreams is more than a cancer journal . . . . Vulnerable and extremely private, Lazarre has entrusted her story to us. [This] is a moving book, crafted with exquisite care. I feel privileged to have read Lazarre’s words.” — Kathleen Woodward , Women's Review of Books

Wet Earth and Dreams is a beautiful, engrossing, enormously moving book. It stirred me to the depths.” — Judith Rossner

“A book that cuts close to the bone, its strength derives from the purity of its engagement with the intensities of emotional life. . . . Lazarre’s severe honesty is served by a perfected literary style of classical clarity and restraint. This is her best and most powerful work. . . . ” — Phillip Lopate, author of Portrait of My Body and The Art of the Personal Essay

“A compelling read of one high risk woman’s anticipation, realization, and emergence.” — Deborah Axelrod, M.D., Beth Israel Medical Center

“Bravely intimate . . . Jane Lazarre’s voice sustains me through the terror of my own most grievous losses. . . . Her spiraling narrative, poetic or musical in its resonance, shows how grief that seemed a wall can become a door. Memory, that had seemed the enemy, becomes a source of plenitude and a companion in resurgence.” — Jan Clausen, coeditor of Beyond Gay or Straight

“Jane Lazarre has always been one of our bravest writers. She once again makes an art of raw, fierce honesty, as she moves through encounters with pain, loss, illness, and death. Inspired by the urgent desire to know and be known, she has created an intensely gripping and profoundly moving work.” — Jessica Benjamin, author of The Bonds of Love and Shadow of the Other

“She has it right! Perhaps even workers in the field will learn something about how patients feel. Thank you Jane Lazarre from all of us.” — Lucille Clifton, author of The Terrible Stories


Availability: In stock
Price: $22.95

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Jane Lazarre is on the Faculty of Eugene Lang College at the New School for Social Research. She is the author of numerous works of fiction and non-fiction, including Beyond the Whiteness of Whiteness and The Mother Knot, both published by Duke University Press.

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Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-2543-7 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-2206-1
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