Recommended Books for Winter 2015. Patient. By Bettina Judd. Winner of the 2013 Hudson Prize.
In Patient., a researcher lives with the ghosts of enslaved women after they visit her hospital bed. To appease them, she traces the stories of Anarcha, Betsey, and Lucy, three of the women who were subject to experiments by the father of American gynecology and finds that she is entangled in a history of medical subjection and display.
Joice Heth. Lucy Zimmerman. Betsey Harris. Anarcha Wescott. Bettina Judd ensures you will remember the names of four women assaulted by science, violated by curiosity–survivors of physical invasion and torturous experiments. She presents their dignity, heretofore denied, as imagined in their own voices in conversation and parallel with a modern speaker, similarly (coldly) ensnared by a medical machine powered by detachment at best, cruelty at worst. Judd re-centers the narrative, however, to where it belongs–on the person(s) confronted, examined, in pain–not on the problem to be studied or solved. In visceral language that indicts, worships, haunts, and empowers, Patient illuminates “a dynasty, a bloodline, a body” imbued with the full human spectrum of emotion and brilliance.
Bettina Judd’s stunning poetry invites us to imagine the experiences of enslaved women subjected to gynecological experiments—the blood, pain, loss, shame, and survival. Linking past and present, Patient brilliantly condemns the inhumanity of professionals who infringe black women’s bodies and celebrates the humanity of those who resist them. It will disturb and move your spirit.
About the Author:
Bettina Judd is a visual and performance artist and writer born in Baltimore, Maryland and raised in Southern California. She is a researcher and teacher in Women’s and Gender and African American studies. A Cave Canem Fellow and Pushcart nominee, her poetry can be found in the literary journals Meridians, Torch, Mythium, and Aunt Chloe.