Welcome to the Humanities, Arts & Medicine (HAM) Database

The Humanities, Arts & Medicine Database presents a compilation of Canadian works of literature that deal with health, illness and the body. It is a free resource available to readers, writers, teachers, scholars, health care professionals and patients or anyone else who might find it useful. (Please note that as of the summer of 2015, this website is no longer being updated. If I am flooded with sorrowful messages about its loss, I will reconsider, but after 10 years of feeling like I could never keep up, I have decided to move along.)

 

Recent Additions

"Her Adolescence"

"Her Adolescence" is a story within the larger story told in Duke, a wildly original novel about the life of William Marmaduke Tilly, as imagined by his granddaughter Sara Tilley. Tilly (which later became Tilley when a typo on the family store sign stuck) was born to a wealthy merchant family in Elliston, Newfoundland, and struck out for the mainland when financial need, prompted by family disaster, dictated.

Impact

Impact is a short story about grown children at their mother's bedside in the intensive care unit after she is hit by a car. Written from the perspective of Naomi, the single teacher with all the answers, the story follows three people who have grown unable to comfort each other on one sterile, uncertain night in the waiting room of the ICU.

Sweet Life is Linda Biasotto's first book. She lives in Regina.

Chemo Side Effects: Memory

A paradoxically dazzling description of the effects of chemotherapy on the speaker’s linguistic memory: the speaker describes the experience of fishing for a word that keeps slipping just out of reach, through a series of gorgeously articulated metaphors. The experience is of a poet who’s able to seize on just the right words, to describe the experience of not being able to seize on just the right word. A virtuoso poetic performance, by a poet who knew whereof she spoke.

Through Dooms of Love

Through Dooms of Love is the first and only novel by Dr. Karl Stern, a Jewish-Bavarian psychiatrist who escaped from Nazi Germany and settled in Montreal before the outbreak of World War Two. Published in 1960, Through Dooms of Love explores themes of mental illness, guilt and expiation, religion and the changing medical/treatment paradigms in psychiatry, as well as the experience of patients and caregivers in asylums.

Doctors + Patience

"Doctors + Patience" is a first-person, long-form feature article that first appeared in Saturday Night, a Canadian magazine (now out of print) in 2004. This article was, for its time, a path breaking, in-depth examination of how doctors communicate with their patients and how patient-doctor communication is taught in Canadian medical schools. In Doctors + Patience, the Toronto-based, award-winning author Marni Jackson shadows medical students on their journey from the classroom to their work/study in hospitals.

In McGillivray Township's Cherry Trees

A poem about a daughter watching her elderly father approach death. His sleep and manipulation by machines is compared to the capture and drowning of wild song birds "enraptured by ripeness."

Susan Downe lives in London, Ontario. She studied English and Philosophy as an undergraduate, at age forty she studied Gestalt theory and practice, and psychoanalysis, and practised in these fields for sixteen years. She is the daughter of a woman named Jaunita Wildrose.

Getting Ready (Joy)

A prose poem about a conversation between a daughter and her elderly mother as the mother prepares for death: how four cans of vegetable cocktail is too many ("I'll be dead long before these are gone.") and how when the chest pain came, she was filled with joy.

Susan Downe lives in London, Ontario. She studied English and Philosophy as an undergraduate, at age forty she studied Gestalt theory and practice, and psychoanalysis, and practised in these fields for sixteen years. She is the daughter of a woman named Jaunita Wildrose.

MRI

A textbook petrarchan sonnet, ‘MRI’ is a witty, pointed, second-person account of an MRI, from a patient’s perspective. The focus is less on the experience of having the MRI than it is on the relationships among patient, image, and image-maker. This kind of imaging is described as being one of “the arts / that show the way the body-machine rots” — but there is an implication that poetry, too, is such an art, or can be.

Room Full of Blood

Room Full of Blood is a funny short story about four women on the obstetrics floor in various stages of pregnancy and childbirth: one is 47 years old and about to have her tubes "tied" after having her last baby; one is the partner of a rock star and is lovely at every turn; one is homeless and will likely have her baby taken away; the narrator is nonplussed by her entire experience.

Swing Low: A Life

A memoir of Toews' father, who struggled with depression throughout his whole life. After her father took his life in 1998, Toews decided to write his story, from his perspective, to honour him, to demonstrate the value of his life and to help her understand his final decision. Swing Low offers a gripping insight into the mind of a bipolar man who was determined to live a normal life. McNally Robinson Book of the Year Award, Alexander Kennedy Isbister Award for Non-Fiction