I have yet to write a review about one short story. This is the exception. “Interesting Facts” by Adam Johnson appears in the June 2015 edition of Harper’s magazine. It is a powerful story that has breadth. It is told from the perspective of a wife who is suffering the ravage of cancer and the illusion and reality of the disintegration of her marriage and family. It casts memories, facts about Japanese and Native American culture, cancer treatment, literature, and media across a sea of anxieties.
While the loss of life is gender neutral, the loss of breasts in my opinion has no psychological parallel for men. It is less a matter of cultural stigma in our society, but it still may be felt as a diminution of womanhood in U.S. culture. Self-worth for adolescent girls is often focused on the development of breasts, perhaps because they are visible. Boys don’t share this social pressure. Men do have psychological scars tied to sex, it just seems different from the cost of a mastectomy.
The author is not unknown, although he was unknown to me. Adam Johnson received the Pulitzer Prize in 2013 for his novel “The Orphan Master’s Son.” I will be looking for that book. You should read this well written short story.